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Former resident accuses Tampa apartment complex of discrimination

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Madison Heights apartment complex in downtown is in the middle on an interesting legal battle. A former resident, self-proclaimed part-time comedian David Eldredge, is suing the owners of the building for discrimination and illegally disclosing his HIV status.

According to legal documents filed in Hillsborough County court Jan. 27, Eldredge lived in the 55-and-over complex and was its activity director. In a 2014 Tampa Tribune article about the complex opening, Eldredge was described as eager to move into Madison Heights, which he ultimately did.

Even though Madison Heights was intended for moderate to low-income residents over age 55, Eldredge was just 49 at the time of that article.

While working, Eldredge claims he told another employee he was HIV positive. After that disclosure, he argues, he began being treated differently. He claims the property manager, identified as Debra Sweeting, began harassing him about whether or not he wiped down the gym equipment after using it.

He also claims she told other residents about his HIV status, prompting others also to harass him. He said it was so bad, another resident once attacked him, and the landlord then lied about who instigated the attack.

Eldredge claims that incident led to police searching his apartment and finding prescription medications. He was arrested on narcotics charges and jailed for a month.

Madison Heights seems to have a good defense. Eldridge was arrested for robbery in 2012 and subsequently found guilty. Then in 2014, shortly before moving into Madison Heights, he was again arrested for petty theft and resisting detention. Eldridge was found guilty on both counts.

The trouble didn’t stop there. The apartment complex sued to evict him, but according to documents, the two parties instead agreed to terminate his lease. The charges amassed during the aforementioned altercation at the apartment complex included possession of a synthetic drug and exposing a sexual organ. Eldredge was found not guilty of possessing a drug without a prescription.

He’s since found himself in more trouble. Eldredge was arrested and accused of battery in February 2015 while he was said to be still living in Madison Heights. In April, Madison Heights neighbor Jeffrey William Smith obtained a two-year injunction against Eldredge for repeat violence.

An eviction notice given to Eldredge contends he falsified information on his rental application. It’s not clear whether that misinformation could have been his age since Eldredge was younger than 55 at the time. However, that revelation could serve as a defense against Eldredge’s allegations.

Representing Eldridge is Cindy Cumberbatch of the Tiktin Law Group.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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