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Neighbors’ dispute ends up in court

The Vitone family moved to Nevada County nine years ago for peace and quiet, but the racist tone of a dispute with their neighbors and law enforcement’s reluctance to act, they said, is more disquieting than any big city problem.

“It’s a white, racist neighborhood,” Alta Sierra Ranches’ resident Robert Vitone said. “I’m not the only one who thinks that.”

Last August, Vitone and his wife, Donna, found two pornographic magazines and a pornographic DVD that appeared to have been thrown over a 7-foot fence they share with their neighbors. The fence line had no public access from the road or driveways off of their street, Norvin Way.



A ripped brassiere also was found with the materials. A third pornographic magazine was found lodged in the fence, Robert Vitone said.

The pornographic material was especially disturbing because it featured Asian women. Donna Vitone is Japanese.




The Vitones have had conflicts with their neighbors – Carol Kahler, husband Jack Willard and Kahler’s two adult sons Patrick and John – since 2004. The neighbors have taken each other to court over a string of offenses, including vandalism to the Vitones’ property, harassment of Kahler’s sons and a paintball attack on the Vitones’ steer, according to Robert Vitone and his attorney, Strowbridge Blasdel Richardson of Newcastle.

But this time, the Vitones said, they believe they were being sent a chilling message.

“These boys are attacking me personally,” Donna Vitone said. “It’s devastating.”

She worries about getting raped, she said, and the stress is affecting her work as a teacher in Sacramento for children with special needs.

But the young men and their parents deny dumping the pornographic material.

“The closest I’ve ever been on (the Vitones’) property is 5 feet away from the fence line,” Patrick Kahler said.

Robert Vitone, who owns a masonry company, said he has spent $22,000 on attorneys’ fees and nearly $80,000 erecting a fence between the properties. He also rearranged lights on his barn because the Kahlers complained they kept them up at night.

Court records show mediation between the families was ordered by the court, but it apparently did not work.

Nevada County Judge Robert Tamietti issued mutual restraining orders for both families in June 2005.

Patrick and John Kahler appeared in civil court Monday for violating the restraining order against them.

On Monday, visiting Nevada County Judge John Darlington appointed a public defender to represent Patrick and John Kahler and continued the matter to a hearing set for 10 a.m., April 30.

Civil matter

The Vitones are frustrated because every time the Kahlers violate their restraining order, law enforcement will not respond quickly, Robert Vitone said.

“If it’s a domestic violence case, law enforcement is quicker to react than they would when two neighbors are arguing,” Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said Monday.

The Vitones only recourse at this point is in civil court, where a judge can impose fines or jail time for contempt of a court order, Newell said.

“If things escalate, then we (the DA’s office) can get involved,” Newell said. “Until there’s something clear-cut and the sheriff’s office can write a report for a crime, it’s a civil matter.”

Law enforcement needs proof of a crime before making an arrest or filing charges, Newell said.

Even if it could be proven that the Kahlers deposited the pornographic material, the crime would be littering, Newell said, and littering cannot be considered a hate crime.

Newell said he did not want to downplay the emotional effect the pornographic material has on the Vitones.

“It’s immoral behavior,” Newell said. “I’d like to see some sort of alternative resolution.”

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To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.


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