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The Daily Tar Heel

Local Judge Doles Out Homework

District Court Judge Alonzo B. Coleman ruled Monday that Iris Andros, co-owner of Zorba's restaurant, must write a 10-page book report on guide dogs and the disabled before April 2. The ruling came in response to a discrimination suit brought by a blind man who was denied entrance to Zorba's by Andros on Oct 7.

Coleman said he plans to read the book report book aloud at Andros' next court appearance, which is the same date that the report is due. Andros could face further punishment depending on whether the report satisfies Coleman.

The civil dispute stems from an incident when David Oberhart, a visually impaired man, approached Zorba's restaurant and was denied entrance by Andros because he was accompanied by his guide dog.

Oberhart said he told Andros that he was blind and that he needed a guide dog to see, but he said Andros did not listen. "We are concerned that she has not learned from her lesson," he said.

Kim Steffan, Oberhart's attorney, said Andros' book report will play a significant role in her upcoming court date. "What she writes in her book report will influence her sentencing," Steffan said. "And whether or not she had gained any perspective or knowledge from writing the report."

Steffan also said the penalty for Andros' crime could be either a fine of up to $200 or a suspended jail sentence and community service.

But Coleman said his ruling is not about penalizing Andros but making her aware that what she did was wrong.

"The book report is not to be a punishment but a learning experience for her," he said.

Coleman said he has used this as a successful type of punishment for similar situations before.

"Recently I had a young woman to write about alcoholism," he said. "When I see young people going down the wrong road, I have them read a book."

But Andros said she is not happy with Coleman's decision, which might lead her to pursue further action.

"We are thinking about appealing the court case, but we have not decided yet," she said.

But Steffan said Andros could have avoided the sentence if she had pleaded guilty before the court and announced an apology to the public.

"All we asked of Mrs. Andros was to hold a press conference to issue a public apology," Steffan said.

"And to pay for the training of another dog for another disabled person."

But now Steffan said both she and Oberhart have filed two civil cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act with Orange County and the U.S. Department of Justice against Andros.

"They will investigate the facts of the case and will come up with a decision," she said.

"This process involves monetary sanction for anyone who committed the act."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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