Student obtains court order against roommate after property damage, harassment

Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 8:15pm

Business junior Matthew Mansour was granted a personal protection order against his roommate, Business senior Abhishek McFarland, based on a tense living environment in which Mansour was too afraid to come back to his apartment at Landmark Apartments on South University Avenue. McFarland will have to move out of the apartment with police present.

The terms of the PPO also mandate McFarland cannot have any contact with Mansour. While McFarland's attorney pointed out the two were in the same school and possibly the same apartment, Washtenaw County judge Patrick J. Conlin said McFarland should take the effort to avoid him and that Mansour should not go to the police if he simply passes McFarland in the apartment.

Close to 40 students packed the Washtenaw County Trial Court Thursday afternoon to support Mansour, who claimed in a viral Facebook post yesterday evening he was targeted for being a gay man.

While McFarland's attorney argued it was an eviction situation to be kept at a Landmark level and Mansour sought a PPO for his own convenience, Conlin ruled the environment was hostile enough to grant the order. Conlin expressed disbelief at the McFarland’s stories and said his witness recount involved too many people and was too inconsistent.  

The case is also currently an open investigation with the Ann Arbor Police Department. AAPD detective Jessica Oliverio testified Thursday, but did not have many details to add to the case.  

Mansour said while he was out on Fall Break, his friend Michelle Vander Lugt, Engineering senior, went to borrow groceries from him when she noticed all his kitchen utensils and dog toys — later estimated to be $600 in worth — were missing. Additionally, she said the roommate who opened the door for her warned her she might not find anything. She then took pictures of knife marks on Mansour’s door, a damaged doorknob and windowsill. Mansour said the environment felt more life-threatening after he came out on National Coming Out Day earlier this month.

Mansour previously petitioned the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on the basis of sexual discrimination. Conlin, however, said he did not see evidence of anti-gay behavior strictly by McFarland, but agreed there have been too many incidents that targeted Mansour.

Mansour testified Landmark randomly assigned Mansour to McFarland's apartment with two roommates. Mansour owned a service dog for his anxiety, to which McFarland reacted harshly on the first day and continued to call him expletives.  

During his time living with his roommates this semester, Mansour argued McFarland created a toxic environment, cheering on a roommate to urinate in his dog’s bowl and throwing his property out the window. He said the roommates were also stealing exit signs, and when Mansour brought this up to Landmark authorities, he said McFarland called him a “bitch” several times. He then said he banged on the wall while Mansour was in his bedroom, saying “All gays go to hell.”

In his statement to the court, McFarland said he was frustrated with the situation and admitted to swearing at Mansour once. He said he was allergic to dogs and did not realize the service animal was hypoallergenic. However, Conlin said McFarland's frustrations with living with a dog were targeted at Mansour rather than brought up to Landmark.

Mansour played a recording of a male voice saying the expletives to the court. McFarland countered the voice belonged to his friend.

When McFarland came to the stand, he insisted he would be happy to welcome Mansour back. While he admitted to the other roommate urinating in his dog’s bowl, he said he did not urge neither did he say the anti-gay slurs. He insisted it was another friend. McFarland also said the knife marks on the door was because of another friend during the weekend of the University versus Michigan State football game, not Fall Break.

McFarland and Mansour’s roommate came as another witness on McFarland's behalf. As he approached the stand, the witness’s gait was wavering and speech slurred, prompting the judge to ask him if he was under the influence. The roommate replied he was not.

The witness’s story conflicted with Mansour’s and McFarland's accounts — according to the roommate, no one had ever insulted Mansour despite McFarland admitting to having called Mansour the expletive. He also said he never heard a friend say the anti-gay chants, despite McFarland's insisting another friend said the slurs. The roommate did, however, admit to urinating in Mansour’s dog’s bowl.

The witness also said the incidents in which the door was knifed — also insisting it was the night before the Michigan State game — were caused by a friend from New York that had a schizophrenic episode after drinking and going off his medication.

On the conflicting dates, Conlin said he could not see a beneficial reason for Mansour to lie. He also said he plausibly could not see how many people could be involved and for the witness’s friend to have that burst of energy after being intoxicated since the afternoon. 

Business junior Serena Brown attended the hearing in support of Mansour.

“(My friends and I) are in the same section as Matthew,” she said. “I came to show support to someone who is really sweet.”

Mansour later told the Daily he was relieved by the verdict.

“I am glad that I am able to move back into my apartment, go back to my bed,” he said. “(I am sad) that there were lies made in the court today but the judge saw through that pretty clearly and I am glad that he gave me the PPO.”

Arnold Reed, who is the father of LSA senior Arlyn Reed, one of Mansour’s friends, said he has known Mansour for many years and never known him to participate in unruly behavior.

“We are very, very happy,” he said. “(Mansour) is a good, nice kid ... I am not happy for (McFarland) ... but he has to come to justice and understanding.”