By Lisa Redmond
AYER -- An 80-year-old controversial landlord, who has come under fire for his boarding homes in Ayer and Littleton that provide housing for recovering addicts and sex offenders, was cleared of charges of grabbing a female tenant, spitting on her and flashing his private parts.
After a one-day trial on Tuesday, an Ayer District Court jury found Hugh Ernisse, of 128 Washington St., not guilty of assault and battery, intimidation of a witness, open and gross lewdness and interfering with police.
Prosecutors had alleged that on Feb. 23, 2012, Ayer police received a report from a woman who said she got into an argument with Ernisse after she accused him of entering her room and stealing items. Ernissee, who was wearing a robe, was accused of grabbing the woman, spitting on her and then flashing her.
Ernisse told police the woman made up the story because she hadn't paid her rent.
Neither Ernisse nor his attorney John O'Neill could be reached for comment by deadline.
But Ernisse's legal woes are far from over. He still has a handful of pending criminal cases in Ayer District Court.
Last August, Ernisse was released from jail after spending 60 days behind bars for violating the court's conditions on a pending case.
Ernisse has pending cases including being charged with assaulting a male tenant and violation of a restraining order for allegedly approaching a woman as she walked into court to attend a court case against him.
Ernisse's next court date is April 17 in Ayer.
No stranger to controvesy, in 2011, Ernisse's Williams Street neighbors filed a petition to selectmen seeking relief from the sight of trash and demolition debris strewn throughout Ernisse's yard.
The Ayer Board of Health issued violation notices to Ernisse for the condition of both his William Street multifamily home and his home across from the elementary and middle/high school complex.
Ernisse has said he provides a safe haven and counseling for drug addicts at homes he owns in Ayer and Littleton as part of what he called his idyllic "Internet Love University."