Can't change file permissions in home folder

I just installed OS X on this iMac and copied the clients documents from an older machine.

In the home folder, he has many documents owned by nobody:staff. These are not writable.
I tried to change them with sudo chown -R hisname:staff *
but it has not effect. then I find I can't sudo or su
When I installed the operating system I used no passwords,
su -
always reports "Sorry"

How can I change these file permissions?
ltcs_Asked:
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TCB1Connect With a Mentor Commented:
You can't use Disk Utility to repair non-system file permissions, or running that would be an easy fix. To repair permissions outside of system folders, you need to do it with the chmod command. If you are having trouble with the sudo command, then you may have to boot into single-user mode and run the command.

To boot into Single-User mode, restart the mac while holding the command and s key at the same time.
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strungConnect With a Mentor Commented:
See if this helps: Batchmod:  http://www.macchampion.com/arbysoft/Welcome.html
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ltcs_Author Commented:
hey thanks for the link. I fixed the permissions by simply making a copy of all of his documents (all 12 gigs of them) but am still kind of perplexed as to why I can't su or sudo
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