Controversial landlord Shao Ti Hsu, the millionaire engineering professor who owns hundreds of low-rent apartments in the Washington area, was jailed briefly yesterday after being convicted of battery and other offenses stemming from an incident at one of his properties last December.
Hsu was sentenced to 36 months in jail -- with all but a month suspended -- and fined $1,500 by Prince George's County District Court Judge Louis Ditranni. Late yesterday Hsu posted $10,000 bond and was freed. He said he will appeal the case.
County sheriffs' deputies said that although Hsu has frequent run-ins with police and the courts over housing violation charges, yesterday was one of the few times he actually has been jailed.
Hsu was charged last December after he became involved in a scuffle with tenant organizer David DeChant, who was advising Hsu's tenants on how to obtain better housing conditions at Hsu's 33-unit Emerson Garden apartment complex at 4306 Emerson St., Hyattsville.
Emerson Gardens frequently has been cited by the county's housing inspectors for unsafe and unsanitary living conditions. Last January, Hsu's license to rent apartments at the complex was revoked.
According to prosecutors, witnesses said that as DeChant began knocking on doors in the apartment building, Hsu arrived and he and DeChant got into an altercation. Hsu and DeChant give differing accounts of the results of that altercation.
DeChant said Hsu ordered him to leave the property, then hit him across the legs with a 3 1/2 foot, tape-covered metal pole that the landlord frequently carries. He said Hsu then pulled out a can of chemical disabling spray and began spraying it at him. At that point, DeChant grabbed the metal rod and swung at Hsu in self-defense, striking him above the right eye, DeChant said.
Hsu has said he asked DeChant to leave Emerson Gardens but that the tenant organizer refused to do so. Instead, Hsu said, DeChant grabbed the metal pole and hit him with it.
Hsu was taken to Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, where he received several stitches for a cut above his right eye.
Hsu was charged with two counts of battery, carrying a deadly weapon, and making false statements to a police officer.
Besides ordering Hsu to serve 30 days in jail on the charges, Judge Ditranni sentenced Hsu to 35 months of supervised probation.
Hsu, a professor at the University of Maryland, has been a center of controversy. In 1976, District of Columbia housing officials named him the single most frequent violator of the city's housing code. The FBI is investigating allegations that Hsu and former Sen. Vance Hartke (D-Ind.) offered a Prince George's County housing official $4,000 a month to keep the county from interfering in their efforts to buy and operate several run-down housing projects.