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Controversial Ayer landlord flies solo in district court


AYER – Imprisoned for the last three weeks, Hugh Ernisse of Ayer, 81, groused to Ayer District Court Judge David Cunis on Friday that he has both lost eyesight in one eye and has lost regular contact with his attorney while imprisoned at MCI-Concord.

The controversial Ayer landlord was in court for a pre-trial conference on charges related to the alleged violation of a restraining order and witness intimidation.

Ernisee was sporting a full white beard, an oversized white t-shirt, baggy green sweat pants, black sneakers and ankle shackles. Ernisee suggested “diet, maybe” is responsible for his loss of vision in one eye while behind bars.

Ernisee stated that he’d represent himself at the court date, since his attorney, John O’Neil of Lowell, was not present due to a vacation. “I thought he’d be back today,” said Ernisee.

Assistant District Attorney Felicia Sullivan said that O’Neil knew of Ernisee’s court date but added “I’m not sure if he’ll be here.”

Ernisse ultimately suggested the court move forward, saying “I feel qualified” to represent himself.

Ernisee said O’Neil has “turned into a financial matter,” adding that O’Neil “seems to be implying that my payment is necessary” before legal representation would begin.

Ernisee said O’Neil “hasn’t contacted me at Concord in over three weeks.” Nonetheless, Ernisee said O’Neil is a “nice man” who had to untangle the “difficulties of my case.”

Cunis said, “You do have a lawyer” since O’Neil has not sought to withdraw from the case. “What’s your income?” asked Cunis, asking if Ernisee qualified for a public defender.

Ernisee reported he collects a veteran’s benefit, social security income and rent from tenants. However Ernisee said his homes are in foreclosure and that he’s declared bankruptcy. “I’m a million dollars in debt at 81 years old.”

Ernisee says he houses people who were previously imprisoned and/or who have substance abuse problems.

Instead of dealing with the bevy of interrelated charges, Cunis held over the pre trail conference until July 18. Cunis intimated that Ernisee wold face two new, unspecified arraignments at that future court date.

Ernisee remains held from his June 13 arrest by Ayer Police. Ernisee was arrested while seated in the courthouse lobby after a female tenant of his Williams Street home reported Ernisee threatened her earlier that morning as the two head to court on her attempt to obtain a restraining order against Ernisee.

The woman alleged that Ernisee drove up along side her at the intersection of Main and Columbia Streets, warning the woman to go home. The woman claims Ernisse produced a dress stolen from the woman’s daughter and said that he keeps the dress as a reminder of the daughter’s “sweet sexy smell.”

Before driving off, the woman states Ernisee warned “you will pay” if she reported the incident to police. The woman did call Ayer Police who arrested Ernisee shortly thereafter. Ernisee has denied the charges. Ernisse has been held without bail ever since.

The woman had reported that that someone was crouched down in the car next to Ernisee during the June 13 roadside interaction. Police alleged the passenger was Ayer selectman Frank Maxant, who lives in the same Williams Street home.

Maxant has steadfastly maintained that he was not in the vehicle with Ernisee. Maxant was seated in the front row of the gallery in court on Friday.

The same woman tenant had earlier sought a restraining order against Ernisee. In February, the woman reported to Ayer police that Ernisee exposed himself and made sexually inappropriate gestures and comments to her and her 18-year old daughter, when arguing with the daughter over payment of rent.

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