The alleged organizers of a Halloween party in Utah County that didn’t enforce masks or social distancing as COVID-19 cases were spiking are asking the public to help them pay fines and legal fees they accrued as a result.
Eric Little of Sandy and Tanner Valerio of Bluffdale, the owners of party company The Tribe Utah, were each issued $10,000 fines by the Utah County Health Department for the party. The company got its own $10,000 fine. Samuel Nii, co-owner of party company Young and Dumb LLC, received $10,000 fines for himself and his company. Branden Estrada, who police allege was working as a DJ at the event, also got a $10,000 fine. The four men were charged with misdemeanors by the Utah County Attorney’s Office in addition to the fines.
“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,” said Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in a news release. “While I fully understand the desire to gather, we have a responsibility to our neighbors, families, and friends’ health and welfare. Knowingly violating the laws and failing to comply with orders won’t get a pass.”
Now, the alleged party planners are trying to raise $76,345 on GoFundMe to pay the fines and their legal fees. They have received over $5,000 since the fundraiser went up two days ago.
The GoFundMe page claims that Nii and Estrada were not involved with planning the Halloween party. It also says that Little voluntarily ended the event at 11:30 p.m. when he realized the anticipated attendance for the event had been “exceeded by thousands.”
“The Tribe is in humble need of assistance to pay for legal fees and to fight to protect the right to gather, not only for event hosts but for all businesses who are struggling under the weight of constantly changing rules and regulations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company wrote on the fundraiser webpage.
Many commenters on The Tribe’s plea for funds on Instagram were not moved by their request.
“Wait they don’t accept good vibes as a form of payment?!” posted one user.
Other commenters said the group shouldn’t have broken the law in the first place and posted that if you “play stupid games you win stupid prizes.”
Valerio posted a quote from Benjamin Franklin on his personal Instagram earlier this week, saying people who give up liberty for safety deserve neither.
Leavitt’s office did not return a call for comment on Thursday afternoon.