Controversial Landlord Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail; Fine

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Sam Vazirani (l)(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU)
Sam Vazirani (l)(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU)

The controversial landlord whose rental home caught fire in December killing three people went to jail Wednesday afternoon. WOSU reports the families of the victims were not satisfied with the sentence.

Family members of victims the Christmas Eve house fire were outraged over what they considered a light sentence for troubled landlord Sam Vazirani.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Harland Hale whittled down an 18 month jail sentence to just one month for Vazirani who pleaded no contest to 21 misdemeanor housing code violations.

Vazirani faced charges in connection with two rental properties. The city ruled them uninhabitable, but he leased them anyway. One of the houses was 90 Wisconsin Avenue, where Jerrica Francisco, her four-year-old son, DaShawn, and friend Demetrius Chappel died after a space heater started the fire.

Jerry Moss is Francisco’s brother.

“Thirty days is not enough time. This is not justice, at all,” Moss said.

Vazirani tenants have complained broken furnaces, busted water heaters and sewage problems go unfixed for months. Before sentencing, Judge Hale heard from a number of family members and Franklinton-area residents who spoke out against Vazirani’s negligent practices.

“Due to all the lies Sam told my brother Demetrius Chappel and Jerrica Francisco their lives were cut very short,” Renata Miller, Chappel’s sister, said.

“So what if the sewage backs up onto the bathroom floor. So what if the gas lines are leaking and have to be shut off and require the families to use electric heaters in the bedrooms,” Susan Peters said.

But the judge also heard from a few Vazirani supporters. Kevin Williams began renting from Vazirani in late February.

“He’s always asking me how do I like the home,” Williams said.

In addition to jail time, Judge Hale ordered Vazirani to pay a $5,500 fine and court costs. And once Vazirani is released from jail, he will be placed under indefinite house arrest and five years probation.

The landlord, 72, also was ordered to repair all of his rental properties and not to rent any until they pass inspection.

City Prosecutor Bill Hedrick asked for the stiffest penalties for this case: 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. But Hedrick said he thinks the judge’s sentence sends a message to other negligent landlords and allows Vazirani fix up his properties.

“If the maximum had been administered like the judge said it we would have lost the ability to do anything about the properties in question. If he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to with those properties he still could be looking at all those days in jail, so this chapter may not be over,” Hedrick said.

Family members wanted Vazirani charged with reckless homicide, but the county prosecutor’s office said it did not find enough evidence for the more serious charge.

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