The Motel Caswell has finally received the judge’s decision on the preliminary hearing to dismiss the civil forfeiture action taken by the Tewksbury Police Department. “U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein yesterday denied on procedural grounds a motion by motel owner Russ Caswell of Tewksbury, Mass., to have the federal case dismissed, clearing the way for a full trial,” according to an article on the Institute for Justice website.
The motel’s owners, Russel and Patricia Caswell, have been dealing with attorneys for two and a half years now. They have been interviewed by major news stations and newspapers, and have been monitoring the local newspaper since receiving the civil forfeiture notice in September of 2009. But they are not the only ones affected by the action taken by the Police Department. The monthly residents of the motel, some of whom have been living there for years at this time, would also feel the effects of the seizure.
Gregory Bennett has been living at the motel for 19 months. He has accumulated many pieces of furniture, including a fridge, a TV, and a standing wardrobe. “Everything I got, I just got for nothing, pretty much. People just give it to ya’ or they leave it here when they move away, but I’ve always got my eyes open for something,” he said. He has his mail delivered to the front office, though he claims that he does not receive much besides government notices, a la tax documents.
Just a few of the items that Greg Bennett has accumulated over the course of the last 19 months living at the Motel Caswell
Not too far down the street and around the corner can be found his place of employment, which is a convenience, as he does not own a vehicle and it is not too far to walk. He says he has a good thing going at the Motel Caswell, and considers himself a Tewksbury resident. “I have no plans to leave, I really don’t. I’m very, very comfortable here.” Bennett would have to pack up his things and find a new place to live if the Tewksbury Police Department is successful in taking the Motel Caswell from its owners through forfeiture law.
Bennett swears that the rumors surrounding the Motel Caswell (concerning drug use and prostitution) are exactly that — rumors. He believes the authorities must be mistaken or misguided. “I haven’t found [the rumors] to be true. I mean, when I first moved in here, I expected drug dealers in every other room, hookers walking up and down the sidewalk, you know. I haven’t seen none of that. None of it at all. So that’s when I realized it was exaggerated.”
One way the rumors may have spread could well be through the media portrayal of the motel when publishing stories about crimes that occurred on the premises. While the newspapers are not entirely to blame, headlines such as “Tewksbury motel lab is latest sign of fast-growing problem,” published by the Lowell Sun in October of 2005, effectively assigns ownership of the drug lab to the motel as opposed to the dealer. This kind of coverage can create misguided opinions in the inexperienced reader.
But Bennett does not let the rumors bother him. “I think it’s a decent place, I feel safe here, I feel comfortable. They spoil me rotten. They really do, they do. I’m happy here, I have no plans on leaving, as long as they don’t shut it down, I’m staying.”
However, when pressed, he spoke about his options should the motel be shut down. “Probably couldn’t get an apartment. Probably end up going to a rooming house, and those are the bad places, cause all the good rooming houses there’s never any vacancies. Cause people know it’s a stable, nice rooming house, the house is stable. All these other rooming houses, they’re full of mental patients, crackheads, heroin addicts. You’ll get, like, one decent person, two heroin addicts, a crazy person, a good person, you know? And it drives you nuts, eventually, you know, you get outta there,” he says. “And I knew this place, you can come down with $225 and move right in.”
Bennett is no stranger to hard times, and says that before the Motel Caswell, he spent some time living in a tent in the woods. He said he may do that again until he is able to find suitable housing, although he said he hopes it to be in the summer months if that is the case. Perhaps another motel can be found with a decent rate. These are the worries with which the residents of the Motel Caswell are now faced. Russell Caswell and his wife are not the only ones holding their breath, waiting for the final decision from U.S. District Court.
There is currently no date set, but according to the Institute for Justice website, the case should be heard later this year. Until then, nobody moves.