Homeless man found squatting in the Omni William Penn presidential suite

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 11:45 a.m.

A homeless man relaxed and slept in the $2,500-a-night presidential suite of the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown until police moved him to less luxurious quarters in the Allegheny County Jail.

Guests of the hotel were surprised on Tuesday when they opened the door to the suite and found Jeffrey L. Watson, 48, sleeping on a couch, Pittsburgh police said.

They called hotel security, who woke the man and escorted him to a security office, where hotel workers called police at 7:30 p.m. Police arrested Watson and charged him with trespass and theft of services.

Watson had no photo identification but told officers that he is from Los Angeles and was passing through the area on his way home. Watson said he has been in Pittsburgh for more than a month and sleeps “wherever he can locate somewhere comfortable to rest his head,” according to police spokeswoman Diane Richard.

The Dalai Lama, Mick Jagger and John F. Kennedy all have slept in the suite.

Not many places are more comfortable than the presidential suite, which has 1,300 square feet of space in the parlor area and 300 to 500 square feet of space in each of its three bedrooms. The suite includes a dining room, a full kitchenette, a wet bar and a sitting room. The master bedroom features a king-sized bed draped with a gathered gold fabric canopy.

It wasn't clear how Watson got into the suite or how long he had spent there. Eric DeStefano, hotel general manager, said the door to the suite was programmed to be unlocked earlier that day for an event.

“There was an isolated incident of an unregistered occupant being found in the parlor area of the presidential suite, which is a general-use area for receptions and small events,” DeStefano said in a statement.

Watson won't be welcomed back. Police told him that he's no longer permitted on the premises. He faces a Nov. 19 preliminary hearing.

The hotel did not respond to questions about how Watson slipped past its security.

A front desk employee who answered the phone at the Omni said the suite typically rents for $2,500 a night, plus tax, for two guests.

The 17-floor, four-star hotel was built in 1916 and has 597 rooms, including 38 suites, according to the website. Police said the presidential suite is on the 16th floor. The owner of the William Penn is Omni Hotels and Resorts of Irving, Texas.

Movie stars, musicians and world leaders have stayed in the hotel. During the G-20 Summit in 2009, President Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stayed there at the same time.

Hotel lore has it that every president since Theodore Roosevelt has at least visited the hotel, Omni officials have said.

Staff writer Aaron Aupperlee contributed to this report. Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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