Saturday morning, Rhode Island Representative Cale Keable (D, Burrillville, Glocester), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, approached a rental property that he owns and for which is wife, Colleen, handles most interactions with tenants. Tenant Kerri Pratt, who shares the apartment with her minor son, will soon be moving out, and the Keables wanted to show it to prospective tenants.
The representative accompanied his wife, he says in a statement provided to the Current through the House Speaker’s office, “because we were expecting difficulty based on two years of incidents where access to Ms. Pratt’s apartment has been difficult for repairs and mandated fire inspections.”
When the couple arrived, Pratt’s son asked them to come back when his mother would be home. The son captured what happened next in a video that he posted on Facebook:
Colleen Keable announced herself, and when Pratt’s son declined to open the door, the couple tried their key. When the door still would not open, Representative Keable commanded, “Young man, open this door, or I’m going to call the police.” Five seconds later, with a crash, the door opened as far as a security chain would allow, and Keable reached in, touching the bolt and chain. He repeated his command.
Subsequently, the video shows that the door jamb had splintered and the metal plate holding the chain had bent.
In the video, Keable tells Pratt’s son that the door opened because he “leaned into it by mistake.” In his statement to the Current, he says, “When the door would not open, I believed it was jammed, not knowing that my tenant had added locks to the door in violation of her lease.”
Keable could then be heard through the door calling the local police department, while Colleen continued to attempt to persuade Pratt’s son to let them in. At one point she told him, “You have to know your mother’s mentally ill. I mean, you live with her; you have to know that.”
In comments to the Facebook post with the video, Kerri Pratt states that “the police let them both leave and said it’s being investigated.” A story published in Tuesday’s Providence Journal reports that the police department’s initial review asserts that no crime was committed.
The Current also received from the House Speaker’s office a photograph of a letter dated March 2 alerting Ms. Pratt to the landlord’s intention to show the apartment on Saturday morning. In his statement Keable writes, “Going forward, I will rely on my attorneys to ensure Ms. Pratt’s move is accomplished as amicably as possible and do not plan on showing the apartment to prospective tenants until she moves out at the end of the month.”
Facebook messages to the Pratts for comment had received no reply as of this writing.
UPDATE (3/12/15 1:39 p.m.)
See here for some legal analysis.