Real Estate & Property Law

Neighbor of chief federal prosecutor faces graffiti charge for tagging boundary fence

An 82-year-old neighbor of a federal prosecutor in New York City is facing a graffiti charge for tagging a boundary fence between their properties.

However, a lawyer for Sylvia Kordower-Zetlin said his client was simply protecting herself against a potential adverse-possession claim when she marked the fence, reports the New York Daily News. The fence was put up by Arlo Devlin-Brown, who serves as chief of the public corruption unit of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.

Zetlin, a retired teacher, contends the fence is on her property and held up a can of spray paint for a photo published with the article. She also said Devlin-Brown is bullying her. “He should be protecting me, not getting me arrested,” she told the newspaper, pointing out that she is a widow and he works for the government.

Her lawyer, Jonathan Reiter, who is also her son-in-law, said, “My client was completely in the right. The fence is actually partially on the defendant’s property and she marked that fence … to prevent the complainant from acquiring prescriptive rights by adverse possession of her property.”

Devlin-Brown’s wife, Daniela Kempf, who teaches at Barnard College, told the Daily News that Kordower-Zetlin regularly harasses the family. Kempf says that Kordower-Zetlin has even gotten up on a ladder to shout abuse to them, and makes being in their backyard a hellish experience, even with the privacy fence.

“It’s an ongoing dispute,” said assistant district attorney Justin Chung at Kordower-Zetlin’s arraignment on Wednesday. “The defendant was going onto what the complainant believes to be his property and refuses to stop coming over.”

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