Police say their investigation into a packed party with little social distancing at a mansion in New Jersey over the first weekend of August has resulted in the arrest of the party's alleged host.
Alpine police said Tashay Knight of Newark was arrested on a charge of recklessly creating a risk of widespread injury or damage. Summonses were also issued to Knight for violating Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order, maintaining a nuisance, and selling alcohol without a license.
"This is absolutely out of hand," Knight told NBC New York the night of the party. "It got out of control."
Knight turned himself in to police on Aug. 7, officials said Monday. He is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 26, according to police. Contact information for Knight wasn’t immediately available and it wasn’t known if he had retained an attorney.
Videos posted by party promoter and partygoers showed a massive pool party in the upscale Bergen County town on Aug. 1. Hundreds of guests, most without face covering and some passing out drunk, spilled out into the street after police showed up to break up the crowd. One person was seen taken away in an ambulance — and that party wasn't even the first time a massive party was held at the residence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours before the party, sprinter shuttle buses arrived at the mansion and people lined up to get inside.
"We paid to get in, period," one attendee said.
Alpine Mayor Paul Tomasko told NBC New York that what’s been happening at the private house is being looked at by local police, state officials, as well as the county prosecutor's office.
Investigators are reviewing videos from social media of the events—some posted by party promoters. A flyer advertised the party as "The Lavish Experience Pool Party." From an aerial view, cabanas could be seen in the backyard, offered for those willing to spend extra money. One woman and her group took a shuttle bus from Brooklyn to attend the party. She said they collectively spent almost $1,000, and added that social distancing rules were ignored.
"I don't know what kind of scheme, or what they was doing, what kind of scam it was, but I don't appreciate how I was treated, how my friends were treated, how packed it was," the woman said.
A man who identified himself as the host denied that it was a paid party. "This is absolutely out of hand. I agree with all of that," he said. "This is not how we do things. It got out of control."
However, this isn't the first promoted party at the luxurious home. In July, an event called BikiniPalooza was held there. Neighbors say they've lived next to a party house all summer. This one asked us to conceal his identity.
"We've witnessed a night club being operated from the backyard of an Alpine house," one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous told NBC New York. "I've been to Vegas a number of times and this is like a pool party that they throw there."
Various agencies are now looking closely at the party promoters—one already advertising another party at the house this upcoming weekend.
The homeowner is listed as New Jersey personal injury lawyer Joseph LaBarbierra. He told NBC New York said he had leased the property to Wonder Boy Entertainment, and that he had no advanced knowledge it was being rented out for parties for profit. LaBarbierra said he is fully cooperating with law enforcement, and is reviewing his legal options.
"Tashay Knight is not my tenant. I have no communication with Tashay Knight," said LaBarbierra over the phone. He also said he advised the CEO of Wonder Boy Entertainment that the BikiniPalooza party was in violation of the governor's orders, and said it couldn't happen again.
LaBarbierra was told that the music business group was not in the state for the August party, and that he is limited in his legal options because "unfortunately when you lease your property to a third party, they have certain rights." He said he has requested a meeting with the Alpine police chief for later in the month.
Addressing the investigation in the following days, Gov. Murphy said, "Based on the description, there was close congregation and not a lot of face covering, if any. If in fact people are busted and there was a promoted party, that's not gonna end well."
Murphy also announced he’s reduced the limit on indoor gatherings to 25% percent capacity, with a cap of 25 people down from 100. He said too many indoor house parties have led to trends creeping in the wrong direction.
Murphy’s executive order still allows for outdoor gatherings of up 500 people, provided attendees wear face coverings and keep 6 feet of distance between people. Large parties have cropped up around New Jersey in recent weeks as summer hit full swing, prompting Murphy to issue numerous warnings and leading Airbnb to announce it would remove 35 listings for “party houses” around the state.