Peeps trial marks big defeat in the War on Easter

When Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert first "reported" about Carol Burdick, who says she was evicted from her apartment for putting a Peeps display over her door, he said her treatment was proof of a War on Easter -- which is a lot like the War on Christmas, except with warmer weather.

Sorry, Stephen, but Easter haters have won another victory. A jury has just ruled in favor of Burdick's landlord.

It gets worse. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Burdick's been socked with a bill for $1,132.66 in damages for refusing to pay rent once her landlord, AIMCO, gave her a notice informing her that she'd face eviction if she refused to take down a Peeps display she'd mounted over the door of her apartment.

Burdick's attorney, John Pineau, may have called the case "stupid" on the first Colbert Report segment on view below, as well as "idiotic" and "bizarre" during the trial. But it's clear from this unopposed motion for joinder and photo exhibit that he put his all into arguing on Burdick's behalf.

According to the documents, Burdick received a phone call from an AIMCO rep after Easter 2009. The message? The Peeps display violated her lease. Since the agreement only nixed actions that were prohibited by law or the lease itself, or would permanently damage the property -- and because other tenants had decorative displays outside their apartments and didn't object -- Burdick left her bunny-centric exhibit in place. Two days later, a notice was affixed to her door that read:

Demand is hereby made upon you that you comply with the terms and conditions of your lease as noted above, which you have violated, or quit and deliver up the undersigned possession and said premises, withing THREE (3) DAYS of the service of this Demand, and failing to do so, you will be guilty of an unlawful detention of said premises contrary to the landlord-tenant law of this jurisdiction, and you will be subject to legal eviction proceedings.

Shortly thereafter, the motion continues, "agents for AIMCO tore down Ms. Burdick's decorations and destroyed her property." Pineau's filing maintained that this conduct "amounts to constructive eviction, breach of contract, negligence, negligence per se (criminal mischief), and negligent misrepresentation," giving Burdick the right to "treat the lease as terminated, vacate the premises, and stop paying rent" -- which she did.

Seven days later, the motion contends, "AIMCO switched tact and served Ms. Burdick with a second notice of eviction based on non-payment of rent" -- a move that "was illegal and a fraud for a number of reasons, including that it amounts to AIMCO's attempt to extract rent from Ms. Burdick based on a lease that AIMCO had terminated through its previous wrongful eviction," the document states.

On May 18, Burdick, who suffers from lupus and various other health conditions, was hospitalized to have her gall bladder removed. Less than a week later, she had to go to court to answer AIMCO's complaint for eviction and possession of the apartment. She and Pineau answered with a counterclaim, and a trial date was set for late June 2009.

That date was later vacated because Burdick had moved out -- but AIMCO then assigned the Burdick matter to Continental, a collection agency, which filed another lawsuit against her. As a result, the matter didn't finally reach a Boulder courtroom until more than a year after the incident itself, in the wake of a second Colbert feature on the case that can also be seen at the bottom of this item.

To the astonishment of everyone concerned, the trial stretched over three days.

During the first, Aimco attorney Jon Sands defended his company's position by saying that "one person's artwork is another person's mess."

On day two, Pineau trotted out Peeps expert Andrew Novick, who testified about the opportunities for artistry offered by the marshmallow goodies, as well as their tendency to harden rather than rot if left out for long periods of time.

After getting a chance to absorb this wisdom, the jury waited five hours while attorneys argued over technicalities -- so long that they only had a relatively short time after closing arguments to consider the evidence before Judge David Archuleta sent them home for the night.

Today, the six Boulderites deliberated for several more hours before handing Burdick her defeat.

What will she do now? Our money's on another Colbert appearance. And wouldn't she make a great Peeps spokeswoman? After all, she spent over a year fighting for the honor of these treats. That'd be one way to turn a defeat in the War on Easter into a sweet victory.

Here are Colbert's takes to date:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Easter Under Attack - Peeps Display
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Easter Under Attack - Peeps Display Update
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts