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Utah County files charges against Halloween party organizers

Posted at 10:47 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 21:57:56-05

UTAH COUNTY, Utah — The Utah County Attorney's Office announced Monday that it will file charges against the organizers of a Halloween party that attracted thousands to the "Knolls" area by Utah Lake ahead of the COVID-19 surge in the state.

Utah County David Leavitt made the announcement after saying that his decision was a difficult one to make, but it was time to announce the charges and to work with the health department on the proper fines to issue.

"We are not issuing charges for the sake of issuing charges," said Leavitt. "Every charge we issue has a purpose behind it because we're not here to charge 10,000 people for going to a party. We're here to charge those who participated in the organization of the party, those who advanced it, and possibly those who possibly obstructed the investigation."

Nine people have been charged with Class B misdemeanors for their participation in the party, and four were also fined by the Utah County Health Department. Two groups, The Tribe Utah and Young/Dumb, were also fined.

The misdemeanors were issued for violating a state health order which says masks are required and gatherings are limited to just 10 people. Videos showed thousands of people at the party, with most not wearing masks.

“This is just the type of super spreader event we were all concerned about," Leavitt said.

The names below have been charged with Class B misdemeanors:

  • Tanner G. Valerio, Bluffdale, UT
  • Andrew Ivie, Midway, UT
  • Talifolaukovi Roger Foliaki, Pleasant Grove, UT
  • Branden Abel Estrada, Sandy, UT
  • Sadie Broooke Salisbury, Draper, UT
  • James D. Mcreynolds, Lindon, UT
  • Samuel Mark Nii, Orem, UT
  • Daniel Edward Mortenson, Eden, UT
  • Erik Scott Little, Sandy, UT

Leavitt said the investigation into the party is ongoing, but would not answer a question as to whether federal charges will also be filed.

Several of those charged by Leavitt's office were on Monday's call to announce the decision. As the event was invitation-only for the press, it's not known how they gained access to the briefing.

The Oct. 31 party was shut down because organizers did not have a permit to hold a large-scale event. One woman was transported to the hospital after a crowd-surfing incident in which she was knocked unconscious, and several others were involved in car accidents leading up to the event.

Officials made the call to shut down the party in order to enable emergency crews to get through to the injured woman.

Leavitt says the charges are also a warning to those who may be planning future events or parties that ignore current health warnings and put the lives of others at risk.

"If they violate a state health order in a way to this magnitude, in ways that are dangerous to our society, that this office will hold them accountable," 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,” Leavitt added.

The party was publicized through private messages on social media.

Below is a list of individuals and companies charged with violating Public Health Order 2020-20:

  • Branden A. Estrada of Sandy, Utah - Civil Penalty in the amount of $10,000
  • Eric Little of Sandy, Utah - Civil Penalty in the amount of $10,000
  • The Tribe Utah, LLC, Eric Little Registered Agent - Civil Penalty in the amount of $10,000
  • Samuel M. Nii, Orem, Utah - Civil Penalty in the amount of $10,000
  • Tanner G. Valerio of Bluffdale, Utah - Civil Penalty in the amount of $10,000
  • Young and Dumb, LLC of South Jordan, Utah - Civil Penalty in the amount of$10,000