The saga of the Barton family's fight against their foreclosure continued this morning, as King County Sheriff officers removed them—Jean Barton, a homeless shelter worker; Byron Barton, disabled Vietnam veteran; and Brandon, one of their adult sons—from their longtime West Seattle home and charged them with criminal trespass.
"There are no winners in this situation, not the least of which is Mr. Barton, who is gravely disabled, and was living in extremely unsanitary and therefore dangerous conditions," said Sheriff John Urquhart, echoing claims contested by Jean Barton and first made by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Wednesday.
"But Triangle Property Development, the lawful owner of the home, is a victim of bureaucratic inaction and back-and-forth finger-pointing between the City of Seattle and the Sheriff’s Office. That is inexcusable and that’s why I ordered today’s action," Urquhart added.
Representatives of the company, which bought the home at auction, occupied the house this morning and posted "no trespassing" signs on the property, said Sergeant DB Gates, who was on the scene.
Byron was loaded into an ambulance and transferred to a Veterans Affairs facility, Gates said. She's unclear on whether he was handcuffed. Jean and Brandon were processed and released from the sheriff's southwest precinct office. Criminal trespass charges for all three will be referred to prosecutors.
"We believe that the sheriff has acted outside their jurisdiction in arresting the Bartons," Jill Smith, the Bartons' attorney, tells me by phone.
"Byron was taken to the VA hospital and turned away, which I think is appalling," she added. She said they would not allow him to enter the premises. Byron—who has difficulty speaking due to a heart attack and stroke—was transferred to Harborview Medical Center.
He asked medical staff to call her, she said. For now, "they’re allowing him to stay there as shelter but they’re not going to formally admit him," according to Smith.
Jean Barton could not be reached by phone for comment. According to West Seattle Blog, she's returned to the neighborhood and is speaking with TV crews.
In a statement yesterday, activists from Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE) decried any attempt to eviction the Bartons while their lawsuit against Chase Bank and Quality Loan Services (QLS), alleging a myriad of legal violations, winds its way through the courts.
"The AG has already gone after QLS publicly, and put a [temporary] moratorium on foreclosures they're involved in," Randy Whitelock, a SAFE organizer, said. "They are the criminals, not the Bartons."
In March, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that QLS, one of the largest foreclosure trustees in Washington, had engaged in "unfair and deceptive business practices." The company had closed one office without informing homeowners, and some borrowers couldn't enter their Seattle office because it was "in a locked, poorly marked office building." Under a consent decree, QLS was required to send payments to about 450 homeowners and a moratorium was placed on all QLS foreclosures from February 27 and to April 3 of this year.
"The simple truth is that the city has no adequate resources for putting displaced citizens into stable, permanent housing, an issue that should be addressed by Mayor Murray in his mission to end veteran homelessness in Seattle," the SAFE statement added.