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updated: 3/3/2011 5:33 PM

Schaumburg man living in driveway granted jury trial

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  • John Wuerffel

       John Wuerffel
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

A Schaumburg man who's been living in his driveway during foreclosure proceedings on his house won his demand for a jury trial Tuesday to stop a village request for permission to forcibly clean up his cluttered property.

John Wuerffel, 62, of the 1400 block of Hampton Lane, will represent himself in court Thursday for both jury selection and the trial itself.

Because there was no possibility of jail time on the charge of violating village ordinances, the use of a public defender was not an option for the apparently broke homeowner.

"You are entitled to represent yourself," Associate Judge Hyman Riebman told Wuerffel. "You will be held to the same standards as any lawyer that comes into this courtroom."

Village Attorney Elmer Mannina had argued against the use of a jury trial because he said the violations for failure to keep the outside of the home free from garbage and the interior in a sanitary condition should be handled under civil procedure.

But because the violations carry the possibility of monetary fines, Riebman considered them to be quasi-criminal and granted Wuerffel's demand for a jury trial.

Wuerffel revealed that since media attention on his case began last month, he's been approached by the A&E television show "Hoarders" to help him straighten up the house.

But he said he's concerned that the village has gotten rid of more than $30,000 worth of his property as a result of previous court-ordered cleanups.

In August 2009 he filled out a police report stating that village employees removed such items as two gas grills, a UPS package containing workout equipment, a 10-gallon Hinley & Schmidt water bottle and a steel door and frame.

Mannina responded that the only items the village ever removed from Wuerffel's property were smelly trash that belonged in a Dumpster.

Both village officials and neighbors have long considered the state of Wuerffel's property a nuisance.

The front of the house is filled with vehicles packed with Wuerffel's belongings, while the inside of the house is also believed to full of clutter including empty soda cans.

Wuerffel was locked out of his house completely for many months because his mortgage company, HSBC Corp., believed last fall that the property had been abandoned.

Though HSBC officials said Wuerffel had the right to reclaim his keys at any time, he never took them up on it until they delivered them themselves last week.

HSBC officials said foreclosure proceedings against Wuerffel are currently on hold as his case is reviewed.

Though he can now enter the house, Wuerffel said he still can't live in it because he doesn't have the $1,400 for the utilities turned back on.

He spent last winter living in PADS shelters and plans to return to them when they reopen in October.