Embattled Minneapolis landlord Stephen Frenz turned down a plea deal and will take his felony perjury case to trial.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Susan Crumb said she offered a plea deal in which he'd have a three-year prison sentence stayed, but he would have to serve 120 days in the Hennepin County workhouse with release on electronic monitoring after 60 days and pay a $5,000 fine.
Frenz attorney Robert Sicoli rejected the offer. A trial was set for Oct. 15.
During the trial in which the perjury allegations emerged, the Faegre Baker Daniels attorneys established that Frenz secretly co-owned his 60 apartment buildings with Spiros Zorbalas, who was banned from renting apartments in the city in 2012.
As more details emerged, the city revoked Frenz's rental licenses in 2017.
In a separate development Thursday Michael Cockson, a pro-bono attorney for a tenants' neighborhood group, asked a housing court referee to have five apartment buildings owned by Frenz and Zorbalas placed under the care of an administrator, after tenants received notices that the natural gas was being turned off on July 10.
The administrator would also be tasked with making a wide range of repairs that attorneys allege have not been made, despite orders by the city.
The city of Minneapolis revoked all of Frenz's rental licenses in 2017, including those on the five buildings on the 3100 block of 22nd Avenue S., so he has been unable to collect rent.
He threatened evictions against the 60 remaining tenants in all five properties and began eviction proceedings on one of them.
The tenants have tried to buy the five buildings that contain 69 rental units, 35 of which are still occupied, with funds from a land bank, then turn them into cooperatives.
But Frenz has demanded more money than tenants offered.
State law allows tenants to file a remedies action that would permit appointment of an administrator by the court to oversee the properties, collect rent, make repairs and keep utilities on.
Frenz was mired in controversy for more than 3 ½ years, and the criminal case and current housing case are intertwined. Cockson has been involved in both cases.
In January 2016, tenants sued Frenz over the lack of heat and other problems in a south Minneapolis apartment building. Under state law, a majority of tenants must sign onto the suit.
Frenz and his attorneys sought to have the case dismissed by submitting leases, plus an affidavit by Frenz, showing that a majority of tenants in the building did not sign onto the suit.
The Faegre lawyers showed that the leases were phony and there were no such tenants, and Frenz had to withdraw the leases and affidavit. The housing referee found for the tenants and referred the possible perjury by Frenz to law enforcement.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office filed perjury charges against Frenz in January.
A Hennepin County referee recommended the perjury charge, so the case is being overseen by Ramsey County Judge Robert Awsumb to avoid a conflict of interest.
Frenz was forced to sell his properties but the city refused to grant rental licenses to some of the buyers, because the units were purchased on contracts for deeds.
One of the buyers, Rickey Misco, had to return his five buildings to Frenz.
The tenants who are still there want to buy them from Frenz, but he has reportedly balked at their proposed price.
The tenants and their group InquilinXs UnidXs por Justicia (United Renters for Justice) held a news conference on Thursday before the perjury hearing, announcing they plan a procession and vigil to save their homes at 10:30 a.m. July 14 from Lake Nokomis Triangle Park in Minneapolis to Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, which they believe Frenz attends.
They say they want to put pressure on Frenz to sell the tenants the five buildings.
Frenz and Zorbalas did not return phone calls.