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3 Charged With Violating COVID Restrictions by Hosting 700-Guest House Party

There’s been some serious COVID courtroom drama in New Jersey this week. Three individuals were charged Monday in connection with a house party in Jackson, N.J.; the now-infamous celebration involved more than 700 guests and 100 cars by the time police arrived. It was a clear violation of Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order limiting the size of gatherings, authorities say.

The house involved was a 3,700 square-foot Airbnb rental, bringing in $795 per night. Forty-year-old Jackson, N.J. resident Yaakov Weiss told officers he had rented the property on Airbnb but left when the guests numbered around 200. A flier for the “Mansion Party” was posted by the Ocean County Scanner News Facebook page; it said the party would commemorate Liberian Independence Day “the right way” — with “free food & jungle juice.” It advised there would be “liquor pouches and henny shots.” Reportedly, the rules for the property specified “no parties or events,” but the listing for the house has since been removed.

According to a Facebook post made by the Jackson police, officers were dispatched in response to a 911 call — and before an additional 200 people arrived. Because the crowd size was so large, breaking up the party required several hours of assistance of not only the entire on-duty Jackson police force, but also those from six neighboring police forces.

Weiss, along with two other alleged party organizers, Patience Guanue, 23, and Alicia Hinneh, 22, were all issued summonses for violating the governor’s executive order, police said.

New Jersey currently requires outdoor gatherings to be capped at 500 people, and indoor gatherings must be limited to the lesser of 100 people or 25% of a room’s capacity.

The Jackson house party hosts weren’t the only New Jersians charged Monday for violating Governor Murphy’s order.  Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith, the owners of Atilis Gym, were each charged with one count of fourth-degree contempt, one count of obstruction, and one count of violation of a disaster control act. Trumbetti and Smith have been making headlines this summer for opening their property in defiance of New Jersey’s COVID-19 regulations.

A state court sided against Trumbetti and Smith Friday, ruling that authorities could indeed shut the gym down for failure to comply with regulations; the two owners, however, took matters into their own hands and continued operating their business before being arrested Monday.

“We are not upset that we got arrested,” said Smith. “We wanted Murphy to look like a fool. He looks like a fool arresting small business people. We are not upset with the fact that we got arrested. I am upset at the fact that this is the length that we have to go to to feed our families.”

[screengrab via NJ.com]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos