COLORADO SPRINGS — A judge has "granted in part" a motion to set aside the default judgment he issued to a squatter currently incarcerated in prison, pending a formal hearing.
As News 5 Investigates reported Monday, Jack Cole, a career criminal, filed a civil action lawsuit against the family of a home he was illegally occupying.
After a woman named Wendy Clark passed away in 2017, Cole and multiple unidentified parties took over her house, used the deceased woman's car and even put up her Christmas decorations.
For months, the Clark family fought in court to get possession of the home back.
In January 2018, a court-ordered eviction forced the squatters to leave, but the trouble for the Clark family didn't end here.
Two years later, Cole filed a lawsuit seeking more than $400,000 in damages for "mental anguish" and "injured feelings" against the Clark family.
El Paso County Judge G. David Miller entered a default judgment in Cole's favor, but a News 5 investigation found fraudulent paperwork was filed with the courts that apparently got overlooked by the court clerk and judge.
You can read more about our findings here.
A source at the courthouse advised News 5 that based on the information we uncovered, the family should file a "motion to set aside the default judgment" which if approved, would eliminate any money Cole would receive.
Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross relayed that information to the family who immediately filed that motion.
"The defendant's (Michelle Clark) motion has raised some serious factual issues which require a hearing in court," Judge Miller published in a written order obtained by News 5 Investigates.
Judge Miller will now hold a hearing on the matter and has requested the plaintiff (Jack Cole), the process server (Travis Rickard), and the notary public appear in court to answer some tough questions.
CIVIL LAWSUIT BACKGROUND:
When a civil lawsuit is filed, all parties must be served a copy of the document which outlines the allegations against them.
In this case, Mr. Cole claims he had a process server named "Travis Rickard" hand deliver the documents to Michelle Clark.
The "affidavit of service" alleges the documents were delivered by Mr. Rickard on October 16, 2019 to Michelle Clark at the courthouse.
Clark provided News 5 Investigates with time sheets showing she was at work at USAA at the time, and had no business being at the courthouse.
Also, it would have been impossible for Mr. Rickard to hand deliver papers to Clark on that day as he was incarcerated at the El Paso County Jail.
"While the hearing is pending and because of the harm that may be done to the defendant pending this hearing if there has been fraudulent service, the court orders that there shall be no efforts taken by the plaintiff (Jack Cole) in any way to advance a case for a financial judgment or future collections," Judge Miller said in his order. "If a transcript of judgment has been issued, it is hereby vacated pending the hearing and further orders which may issue thereafter. Violation of this order will subject the offender to the contempt powers of this court."
This case is scheduled on the court docket for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 27.
The hearing on May 27 occurred via a teleconference call due to COVID-19. It was a quick proceeding to schedule a formal hearing in which Cole, Rickard, and the process service must appear in court. The next court date is set for July 10.
Update July 2020:
The July 10 hearing has been rescheduled for Sept. 28, 2020.