The Willborns filed a complaint with HUD Jan. 28, and after receiving the complaint, HUD said the Sabbias on Feb. 1 offered to sell their home and all its furniture to the Willborns for $1.799 million. The Willborns declined.
"I was appalled," Willborn told the Chicago Tribune. "The feeling that my entire family has, it's hard to describe. You're talking about 2010. I don't know if people realize it, but we elected an African-American president, so it's not asking too much to be able to live where we want to live."
Willborn said the couple found it difficult to explain to their children what had happened. So they bought a copy of the television miniseries "Roots" and watched it as a family. They then talked to their son and daughter about prejudice.
"I've had to talk to my kids about sex and drugs and all the things they need to arm them," he said. "We talk about race, of course, like every family, but I never had to do what I had to do in this case," he told the Chicago Tribune. According to the complaint, Lowe said in a HUD interview while under oath that while he was representing the Sabbias, Daniel Sabbia told him, "he would prefer not to sell the home to an African-American, though he qualified the testimony, saying 'but if it was for the right price he did not care who bought the house.'"
The Sabbias, Lowe and Prudential will decide whether they want the case heard by an administrative law judge or a federal district judge in Chicago.
If discrimination is found, the Sabbias, their agent and his firm could be forced to pay civil penalties to HUD and financial damages to the Willborns and Cornelious.
John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a prepared statement, "Racial fairness is important at all income levels. Civil rights enforcement must be the effective shield against housing discrimination that in this case wealth was not."
In the complaint, George Willborn said the experience changed who he is and his core belief system. He now finds himself less trustworthy of others and their actions. It has been difficult for the entire family. He said, "I was denied the American dream I worked so hard to attain."