AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Atlanta speculator Rick Warren: Poor neighborhood a "cesspool"

Buckhead real estate speculator Rick Warren called the impoverished Atlanta neighborhood where he planned to make his fortune a "cesspool," according to testimony Tuesday in municipal court.

The disclosure came during a trial held immediately after Judge Crystal Gaines sentenced Warren to 30 days in jail for hazardous conditions at his properties in and around the English Avenue neighborhood. This trial — Warren's fourth this year — concerned yet another of the more than 150 houses he has owned there.

Michael Lucas, now deputy director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, testified that Warren made the comment during a sworn 2012 deposition he took because the speculator had refused to pay a judgement that his former tenants won for poor conditions in their rented rooms. Lucas, who represented the tenants, was trying to find the businessman's assets.

Lucas read aloud from that day's testimony:

"I would simply say you speculate today because the neighborhood as it is, is a cesspool of crack addicts, drug addicts of every nature," Warren told Lucas, according to the deposition.

The AJC quoted from the deposition in its initial investigation into Warren, which led to the ongoing series of trials. Ultimately, Lucas managed to get some money for his clients, but not without a fight.

Other highlights of the deposition:

  • Warren called the property in question "a liability that should be destroyed," but said he had no plans to do so. "I believe the city might," he said.
  • He said the plan for the properties was "to maximize revenue" after the recession.
  • Warren called the deposition a "disgusting waste of time."
  • He said his wife Esther Ridley Warren managed the books for R City, the corporation listed as owner of the properties in county records.

Also worth noting: Warren admitted to the AJC that he was an owner R City and its properties, even though his lawyer now asserts that he did not. Warren also told the AJC that he lied during that deposition because he was angry.

Warren, who is free on bond pending appeals, will be back in court Jan. 26.

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