64 year old Hillsboro woman says she was shoved and punched, but court throws out her stalking order against professional book buyer Pedro Reynaud Erazo brother of Carlos Reynaud
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 8:50 PM Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 6:33 AM
Aimee Green, The Oregonian By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Cowger says he has taken note of how aggressive some book buyers have become. He says he buys book for pleasure, not to resell them.
Kathryn Reitz, a 64-year-old book aficionado, enjoyed browsing for literature at the Goodwill outlet in Hillsboro.
That is, until Pedro Rolando Reynaud Erazo moved in. Erazo and his entourage bought any books of significant value so they could re-sell them online for profit. Day after day, from open to close, the bunch would scoop armloads of newly delivered merchandise into carts, scan the barcodes using digital scanners and leave behind the rejects.
Anyone who got in their way got shoved, said Reitz, other shoppers and even store management. But Reitz may have gotten the worst of it. According to the Hillsboro woman, Erazo followed her around the store yelling and calling her names. He pushed her on 10 occasions. He punched her. He even warned her: “(y)ou should be afraid of me. They’re not going to stop me. I can do whatever I want.”
Reitz filed for a stalking order, and Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Letourneau found justification to grant her one.
But Erazo appealed. And last week — in an eye-opening opinion — the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision by saying Reitz hadn’t met the requirements for a stalking order.
Specifically, the court said she hadn’t proven that Erazo subjected her to at least two “contacts” that would cause her to fear for her own safety. The court ruled that while the punch qualified as one contact, the 10 shoves weren’t truly dangerous. What’s more, Erazo’s reported threat didn’t instill “a fear of imminent and serious personal violence.”
The case not only casts a light on the competitive world of Goodwill shoppers — some who leave their manners at the door in a quest to earn a living — but on the relatively high bar set for approving stalking orders when one person says they are in fear of another.
The Court of Appeals noted the high standard, referring to a 2010 ruling in which the court threw out a Lane County stalking order against an 18-year-old Springfield man — even after he reportedly pushed his 14-year-old neighbor to the ground and threatened to slit the boy’s throat. He also reportedly threatened to find someone to beat up the boy’s 9-year-old sister. The Court of Appeals found that although the 18-year-old’s words were concerning, he only “spoke of what he would have someone else do at some point in the future.”
books1.jpgView full sizeThomas Boyd/The OregonianThe Oregon Court of Appeals recently decided that a Hillsboro woman should not have gotten a stalking order against a man who she says punched and shoved her over books being sold at the Goodwill Outlet Store in Hillsboro.
Terrance Hall, an attorney who represented Reitz, said he was astonished by last week’s Court of Appeals decision. He said repeated shoves and Erazo’s threatening words were frightening to his former client. Hall said he and his client had shown up to Washington County court with overwhelming evidence, so much that the judge said he didn’t need to hear from all of Reitz’s witnesses.
“This is conduct that went on not just for months, but for years,” Hall said.
But Raymond Tindell, the attorney who represented Erazo on his appeal, said Reitz repeatedly put herself in contact with Erazo by choosing to shop at the same outlet store.
“Say what you will about it, it was not stalking,” Tindell said. “It was commercial enterprise and competition … This was way different than your typical stalking case where someone has a hard time disengaging.”
Tindell said his client fought the stalking order because it would permanently mar his record, and could have made it difficult to find a job or rent a home.
Reitz didn’t return calls seeking. Hall said she’s still deciding whether to appeal the case to the Oregon Supreme Court. Because she’s out of money, she’s enlisted the help of law students at Willamette University.
Erazo, who now lives in the Seattle area, also couldn’t be reached for comment. Internet forums, however, have been abuzz about him, with some complaining about aggressive shopping tactics that they say have spread to Goodwill stores
At some point after Erazo punched Reitz, Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette banned Erazo from its more than 40 stores in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, including its four outlet stores in Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Salem and Vancouver. The outlets are warehouses where items that have sat in traditional retail locations for three to five weeks — but haven’t sold — are liquidated.
Most goods are sold by the pound, but books are $1 for paperbacks and $2 for hardcovers. About three times a day, employees wheel out 9-foot long bins full of all sorts of household goods. Shoppers often stand shoulder to shoulder behind yellow lines until the bins are all out, before staff will let them dig in. No where is the competition for goods more fierce than the bins containing books, employees say.
During Reitz’s hearing for the stalking order, one witness who described standing back to watch the frenzy said: “It’s like the Three Stooges gone nuts, and you just watch.”
Another witness told the court how she made a tidy living shopping for Goodwill books and re-selling them online until Erazo and others showed up with scanners. She said Erazo directed members of his group to grab books before she could look at them.
“A person would come and follow me, and just follow me wherever I would go …stand right next to me, elbow me, make it incredibly uncomfortable,” she told the court.
The Court of Appeals noted that although Erazo and his group “initiated the ruder behavior at the store, they were not alone in behaving badly. The new, more aggressive, atmosphere permeated the culture of the book shoppers at the store.”
Goodwill representatives say business at the outlets boomed as Internet sites, such as eBay and Amazon, have grown in popularity and as the economy in 2008 tanked. More people turned to treasure hunting at the non-profit as a means to make a living. Each day as many as 30 to 40 regulars wait outside the doors of the most popular outlets in Hillsboro and Milwaukie. Some spend all day – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. –at the outlets. They eat lunch in their cars, or take breaks sitting on furniture that’s for sale.
As some shoppers worked to undercut others, Goodwill adopted new policies. Bill Goman, the manager who oversees this region’s four outlets, estimates that about 75 percent of the problem has gone away thanks to what he describes as “draconian measures” that worked. Not only must shoppers wait behind the yellow lines, they also aren’t allowed to touch the merchandise until the bins are all in place.
Any shoving results in a minimum 30-day ban from the stores, but it could also result in an indefinite ban in what Goman describes as a “one-strike policy.”
Goman said Goodwill also has been smarter about identifying books of value, and today sells them on www.goodwillbooks.com.
Regular shoppers at the Goodwill outlet in Hillsboro earlier this week agree that the atmosphere has calmed. As bins are rolled out, they say a hush falls over that area as shoppers vigorously start digging. The shoppers with the scanners are still there, but they are no longer allowed to dump armloads into their carts for scanning. They must scan books one at a time, while they’re still in the bins.
Shoppers say someone still occasionally gets elbowed.
One shopper spoke of a new book hunter who was struggling financially because his part-time employer had drastically cut back his hours. He had three children and was at risk of losing his house. And so his emotions were high when he argued over some merchandise with another shopper, and knocked the shopper’s hat off his head. The book hunter was barred from returning.
Goman, the regional manager, said Goodwill tries to thwart such aggressive shopping before it begins.
“The people who are new to the shopping experience, we will actually bring them into the office and sit down with them and say these are the things that are expected of you,” Goman said.
– Aimee Green