The organizers behind an unpermitted Halloween party that drew thousands to the Knolls near Utah Lake — including owners of Young/Dumb and The Tribe Utah — have each been fined $10,000 by the Utah County Health Department. And nine people are facing criminal charges for violating a public health order that mandated wearing masks or social distancing.
“In addition to supporting the civil penalty levied by the health department, we are also filing class B misdemeanors in the Utah County Justice Court,” said Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, who referred to the party as a “superspreader event” that “hits right at the heart of the public’s safety.”
Fines were issued to Samuel M. Nii of Orem and Young and Dumb LLC; Eric Little of Sandy, Tanner Valerio of Bluffdale and their company, The Tribe Utah; and Branden Estrada of Sandy.
Nii, Little, Estrada and Valerio were each charged with misdemeanors, as were Andrew Ivie of Midway, Talifolaukovi Foliaki of Pleasant Grove, Sadie Salisbury of Draper, James McReynolds of Lindon and Daniel Mortensen of Eden. According to charging documents, sheriff’s deputies observed them working with equipment on stage, and they “admitted to having a part in the event.”
Young and Dumb made headlines when videos of its parties featured large crowds of young people who were neither wearing masks nor social distancing while the number of COVID-19 cases were spiking in Utah County.
Leavitt said the investigation continues and more charges could be coming.
“Our estimates of nearly 10,000 people at this event represent a real danger to the health of our county, especially its more vulnerable population,” he said. “While I fully understand the desire to gather, we have a responsibility to our neighbors, families, and friend’s health and welfare. Knowingly violating the laws and failing to comply with orders won’t get a pass.”
The investigation is ongoing, Leavitt said during a media teleconference Monday, and he may file more charges regarding other parties and other instances of obstructing his agency’s investigation. He declined to say whether he knew of any federal charges being filed in relation to the party.
Leavitt said he wouldn’t ordinarily call a news conference while an investigation is still underway, but he made an exception because he was concerned that “these parties continue to spread because event organizers believe government isn’t doing anything about it.”
Leavitt, a Republican, said that he has “struggled with understanding my role in balancing enforcement of health orders, on the one hand, and recognizing important constitutional rights of assembly and speech on the other.”
However, he added, “when it gets to this level, and people are meeting for the express purpose of flaunting health violations, and the consequence of that is so potentially disastrous, yes, I’m going to act, and I believe it is my duty to act.”
Leavitt himself contracted COVID-19 late last March, he said, putting him out of commission for most of April. “I was flat in bed for approximately 18 days before I could even think about moving,” Leavitt said, adding that he “lost the capacity to reason or think” while he was sick.