Manny Santana, owner of the Newhall Jail building on Spruce Street, pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the Santa Clarita Courthouse to 11 misdemeanor counts of violating city codes. The matter is set for a pretrial conference Nov. 15.
The city of Santa Clarita filed criminal charges against the longtime Newhall resident for allegedly ignoring orders issued in February, March and July to maintain his building according to city specifications. The city accuses Santana of failing to remove graffiti, and of allowing the paint and fencing to deteriorate.
Santana’s arraignment was originally scheduled for Aug. 24 but was postponed when not all parties were present in the courtroom and both sides agreed to a continuance. Outside of court, Santana and his attorneys agreed verbally to work with the city to resolve the problems.
Surrounded by nothing but dirt and weeds when it was built in 1906, today the historic jail building is a little island in the middle of the city’s massive Old Town Newhall Library construction zone. Santana and the city have been at odds over the property for at least two years – Santana accusing the city of damaging the building through its library construction activities, and the city accusing Santana of failing to maintain his property.
In August, Santana produced e-mails from a city attorney to Santana’s former attorney saying he was not allowed to “trespass” onto the city’s library property. Santana said he couldn’t remove the graffiti because it’s on a wall that cannot be reached without trespassing onto the city’s property.
Outside of court, Santana admitted he had received numerous code violation notices but said he filed them in a three-ring binder rather than respond because he thought his former attorney was handling them. He produced a letter from his attorney telling a city attorney in 2010 “not to correspond directly with our client.”
A lawyer for the city said it was rotten advice, and said the problems could have been averted if Santana had simply communicated with the city – something Santana and his new attorney said in August they’d do.
“Manny over-promised and under-delivered,” Emanuel S. Shirazi, the attorney representing the city, said Tuesday when asked whether any progress had been made since August.
Santana and his new attorney did not return calls Tuesday.
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