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Report Serves as Guide to Redress Crime

Report Serves as Guide to Redress Crime

Iris Andros, co-owner of Zorba's in Chapel Hill, appeared Monday in Orange County District Court in Hillsborough for a civil case filed by David Oberhart, a blind man she would not let into her restaurant last October because he had his guide dog along.

On March 5, Orange County Judge Alonzo B. Coleman ordered Andros to write a 10-page report on guide dogs and the disabled.

Coleman ruled that the guilty verdict from Andros' earlier court appearance still stood but would be erased from her record if she did not get into any trouble in the next year. For her book report, Andros read "Maggie by My Side" by Beverly Butler, a book about a blind woman and her five guide dogs.

Andros, a native of Egypt, where the blind are kept at home, said she did learn something from the ordeal. "I learned that blind people are very nice people," she said. "I do not see (writing the report) as a punishment because I was not aware of many things."

Coleman said he could tell how serious people were about the punishment by the book they chose. "I thought the book was very appropriate," he said.

At the end of her book report, Andros thanked Coleman for giving her the opportunity and motive to read about guide dogs and blind people. "I was so ignorant about the subject, but I was glad to learn many things about it," she said.

Kim Steffan, Oberhart's attorney, said the gist of the report sounded like Andros had learned a lot from reading it but that Andros' comments when she left the courtroom contradicted that.

"What's in the report and what came out of her mouth were vastly different," Steffan said, referring to the comments Andros made after the hearing.

After her court appearance, Andros said she hoped Oberhart would find something more useful to do with his time and stop harassing her.

Oberhart said it did not seem like Andros was sincerely sorry for what she had done. "I still don't know if she's learned anything," he said. "I'm going to continue to pursue other options as they become available."

The next step will be mediation between the parties and then, if that does not work, Oberhart can try to obtain a right to sue letter from the justice department, he said.

Because Andros' crime was a misdemeanor, Coleman said he thought the report was the best way for her to learn how dependent blind people are on their guide dogs. "I think her time is best spent by reading a book," he said.

Oberhart said he thought the book report idea was very creative. "I think that was kind of cool," he said. "It's a different form of community service."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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