May 26, 2009

In case of Orinda teen's death, should parents of home where party occurred, or anyone else, be charged under city's "unruly party" ordinance?

I realize I might be asking an insensitive or trivial question, in the face of the horrific tragedy that is the death of the 16-year-old Joseph Loudon, a Miramonte High School sophomore.

I expect that his family is in agony. So, too, is the family of Loudon’s 18-year-old neighbor and rugby teammate, who hosted the party. Police say up to 50 teens converged on this house and were drinking while Loudon collapsed in a hallway after, police suspect, drinking too much alcohol.

That 18-year-old, Patrick Gabrielli, also known as P.J., was arrested Sunday on charges of contributing to the delinquency of someone under 18 and furnishing an alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21 years. Gabrielli was booked into county jail in Martinez and released on bail, the Contra Costa Times reports.

On Tuesday, police announced a second arrest, a 16-year-old. The boy, whose name was not released, was taken into custody Monday on suspicion of furnishing alcohol to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, the Times says. He was released to the custody of his father.

I think it’s fair to assume that police are still investigating, putting together a picture of who excactly brought beer and hard liquor to the party and who, if anyone, was with Loudon when he was drinking or when he collapsed.

Frankly, I can’t imagine the police, or the public, being satisfied with this case ending with a couple of misdemeanor plea bargains. A young person died. I’m wondering if the police are looking to charge someone, anyone, with manslaughter or some other crime more directly related to Loudon’s death. ...

... Even if you can argue that Joseph may have made his own unfortunate choice to drink too much that night, and teen drinking and teen binge drinking is nothing new, either in an affluent community like Orinda or most anywhere else in the world.

A fair number of us, who grew up around here, all have our “war stories” about being teen-agers, going to parties, drinking, drinking to get drunk. I can admit to a few instances where I engaged in risky behavior as a teenager, not unlike the kids at the party where Loudon died. Fortunately, I got away with things unscathed; so did close friends of mine. However, in my senior year at Acalanes high School in Lafayette, there was a horrific alcohol-related accident on Highway 24 around New Year’s Eve. One girl, who was 15 or 16, was killed. A second girl, who was in my senior government class, was left paraplegic. She missed the rest of her senior year, but she made an appearance, in her wheelchair, at graduation.

Over the past couple years, in the wake of community concerns about out-of-control teen parties, the Orinda City Council adopted an ordinance to hold hosts of these parties, where alcohol is served to minors, criminally accountable.

Granted, the stiffest penalties these hosts face is a misdemeanor charge, a $1,000 fine, and possible six months in county jail. But I wonder if this is also a charge the police are looking into, in the place of or in addition to more serious charges against anyone more directly related to Loudon’s death.

But would this ordinance apply to the mother and stepfather of Gabrielli, who reportedly were away for the weekend when the party occurred? Or would it apply to Gabrielli? Or to someone else? Read the text of the ordinance yourself and see what you think.

Chapter 9.24 Illegal or Unruly Private Parties
9.24.010 Definitions.
In this chapter unless the context otherwise requires:
"Loud or unruly gathering" means a party or gathering of two or more persons where loud or unruly conduct occurs and alcoholic beverages are in the possession of, or are being consumed by, any person under twenty-one (21) years of age. Such a loud or unruly gathering is a nuisance. Provided, however, that this definition does not include conduct involving the use of alcoholic beverages that is protected by Article 1, Section 4 of the California Constitution.

"Person responsible" means the person who owns, rents, leases or otherwise has control of the premises where the party takes place. If the person responsible is under eighteen (18) years of age, then the parent or guardian of that person is
jointly and severally liable for the cost incurred for police services.

"Police services" means the law enforcement and crime prevention services provided by the City Police Department and includes the personnel and equipment costs for a police officer for the amount of time actually spent in responding to or in remaining at the party, the cost of medical treatment for any personnel injured during the response, and the actual cost of repairing city equipment or property which is damaged in the course of providing police services. (Ord. 07-08 § 2: prior code § 6-501)

9.24.020 Unlawful juvenile gathering on private property--Violation a misdemeanor.
A. No person may permit or host a loud or unruly gathering when that persons knows, or reasonably should know, that a person under twenty-one (21) years of age possesses or consumes an alcoholic beverage at the gathering. It is the duty of any person who hosts or permits a gathering to take all reasonable steps to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by any a person under twenty-one (21) years of age.

B. A violation of subsection
A of this section is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or by imprisonment for a period of not to exceed six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Ord. 07-08 § 3: prior code § 6-502)

9.24.030 Police services at a party.
The person responsible for a loud or unruly gathering is liable for the cost of police services provided by the city, as defined in Section 9.24.010. Provided, however, that no cost shall be recovered under this section if those present at the loud or unruly gathering call for emergency services for an actual emergency. (Ord. 07-08 § 4: prior code § 6-503)

9.24.040 Cost recovery for police services--Debt to city.
The cost of the police services incurred under Section 9.24.030 is a debt owed to the city by the person responsible. The city may bring an action for collection of the debt. The debt bears interest at the rate of ten percent a year. Interest accrues form the due date stated on the billing. (Ord. 07-08 § 5)

9.24.050 Other remedies not precluded.
The misdemeanor penalty and recovery of the cost of police services authorized under this chapter do not preclude any other potential civil or criminal actions by
the city under any other provision of law, including but not limited to Penal Code Section 272 and Business and Professions Code Sections 25658, 25658.2 and
25662. (Ord. 07-08 § 6)


Anonymous said...

putting poeople in jail is dumb

Radar said...

The parents are ultimitly responsible and should be held accountable. Putting them in jail? I don't know but they should know better.

pt said...

I say put them in jail. why not? every one always want the drunk Hispanics punished to the max. why not punish the Orinda elitists? Throw the book at them, no plea bargin, let them see how it really is in this cruel world. Six months, out in three with good behavior, or probably like the Hollywood stars and spend 30 minutes in jail. How much was that young mans life worth??? Let his parents decide the punishment.

Masterlock said...

I'm sure the parents of the deceased young man will pass along their own justice in the form of a tremendous civil lawsuit, anything the police or district attorney pile on will just be for show. I have a hard time with shifting the blame away from the teenager that makes the decision to drink, there's too much shifting of personal responsibility in our society. Like soccer mom said, we knew the risks we were taking when we were underage and drinking and if something had happened to me it would have been squarely on my shoulders.

DumbAsBricks said...

House arrest makes perfect sense in this case. Put the neglectful parents on house arrest as well as the teen.

There won't be any unsupervised parties anymore.

DodgerDog said...


DID we know the risks we were taking when were 16-20 (or so)?

Soccer Mom wrote that she engaged in risky behavior as a teenager. I'm not sure she even implied that she knew at the time that it was risky behavior.

I know I thought (and I think most teens did and do) that I was invincible when I was that age, and that I was smart enough to know what I was doing (certainly smarter than some 40, 50, 0r 60 year old) without getting hurt OR getting caught.

And I believe legally, we are not completely accountable until we hit age 18. 17 year olds can't sign contracts; and I suspect that the two youth that were arrested (one 18 and one 16), even if convicted of the same exact crime, will face different punishments.

I'm not advocating that a 16 year old isn't old enough to know what they are doing- they are. But I don't believe most 16 year olds are mature enough, have enough life experience, and have the judgement needed to fully realize what they are doing. Add to that mix even one or two beers, peer pressure from some older youth (18-20 year olds), and it's a recipe for a tragedy like this.

It's sad all the way around. I can't imagine what all families involved are feeling.

Anonymous said...

DodgerDog: Feeling invincible doesn't just go away when you turn 18. There are plenty of adults that abuse alcohol and drugs to the point of destruction to themselves and to others. I think when Soccer Mom and myself were growing up we were in the "feed your head" generation. Now it is the "just say no" generation and the kids are better educated. Giving a blanket pass on responsibility to those under 18 is not a good idea. I let a 15 year old baby sit my kids when I go out, and that is the ultimate trust. I don't think age has as much to do with it as being informed.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how it could apply to the parents who weren't even home at the time of the party. Their son was of age, so I think he would be held responsible. So sad all around. I wonder if the parents knew their son was planning on holding the party. Hard to believe they would have allowed a party of that size to go on when they weren't home.

Anonymous said...

DodgerDog how can a 16 year old not be mature enough to know the consequences of drinking large amounts of alcohol but be mature enought to operate a motor vehicle which could kill me in a traffic accident if driven recklessly by a driver not mature enought to know the consequences?

DumbAsBricks said...

If the judge, I would ask if the parents were away overnight and if they had established proper controls to keep this sort of this from happening.

There was certainly negligence here. These kids could not be left alone overnight and it shows by they actions. Certainly the parents would have know about this.

Soccer Mom said...

Hello all,
Difficult debate. If I didn't make it clear in my story, I want to make it clear that I feel bad for everyone involved. Even if there was any illegal behavior on anyone's part, or negligence.

As for me when I was a teenager? What was my mindset then? Probably that "it couldn't happen to me." Or that I was invincible. Did I really KNOW that some of the things I was doing were risky? Maybe I KNEW, but I didn't, you know what I mean?
There's all sorts of neuroscience these days about the teenage brain and decision making skills and understanding (or lack thereof) of long-term consequences. That sort of new understanding about brain development is having various implications on juvenile justice and research on mental illness and drug abuse among kids.

Maybe like a lot of people around here, I've been thinking about this whole tragic situation a lot, and my own past and current choices, as a teen and now as a parent.

DodgerDog said...

Anon 11:33am:

Have you seen 16 year olds drive? Do you remember how you drove when you were 16? There is a reason teenage boys have the highest insurance rates. Fearless, macho, testosterone, whatever... most teen males/young adults think of themselves as invincible.

Of course this doesn't apply to everybody, but it is the rule, not the exception.

I'm not giving a blanket pass to anybody with regards to accountability. Those responsible do need to be held accountable.

Most of us (again, not all) did stupid things when we were younger. Most of us survive relatively intact. Sadly, this young man in Orinda did not.

Most teens are only thinking about the upcoming weekend (if that far ahead), not the consequences that will affect them and others forever.

Anonymous said...

i for one believe that the ability to screw up or even end my own life, as long as it doesnt interfere with the rights and freedoms of others, is a freedom and a right.

i dont like the idea of a nanny state which protects us from ourselves, and i dont like the idea of parents not letting their kids do anything to protect them from everything.

it reminds me of, i think it was i-robot or some movie where there are robots, and they are programmed to not hurt humans. they end up taking this a step further and attempt to stop any harm from coming to humans. to do this they basically imprison everyone to protect them from everything.

basically, i think people getting hurt and sometimes killed is a price i am willing to pay for the freedom to do dumb things.

Anonymous said...

Orinda Parent,

I would say it would fall on the shoulders of the 18 year old, as he is legal age of an Adult in the US. I'm sure that Patrick will suffer and live out his own emotional sentence knowing his best friend died at a party at his house. Maybe he turns that emotions into a more positive function and starts talking at high schools and intermediate schools to educate other young adults about the issues with alcohol. Orinda like alot of small downs has issues with the young adults and parties. No matter what town kids are from we as parents need to start the education about drugs and alcohol at an early age. It can't be something so secretive that children then yern for it as something exciting and cool on a Friday or Saturday night.

Anonymous said...


Not to disagree with you on the maturity of 16 year old drivers, but why do we license them in that case?

It seems to me this is a case of wanting the cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

Orinda parent, I hope that Patrick does learn from his bad decision. Has real remorse and not just courtroom remorse. Good lawyers are going to be retained and a lot of his parents money will be spent. But as we have all seen in the past, if you "get away" with something as tragic as this do you really learn from it, or do you learn that with enough money I can get away with a lot more than the average joe. Also if he is the only one held responsible and his parents aren't, then it needs to be clear that his parents homeowners insurance doesn't get to pay off a civil suit, this debt should be his and his alone, even if he has to finacially pay the rest of his life.

Anonymous said...

OK, pukes,
let's 'pretend' this adult was black, as would be without question were he in OakTown.

No, 'O, gosh, it was just once' 'And such a mistake'

A Strike? What do you mean by that? He is going to Berkeley? .......oh, dear...........But he doesn't bowl?...Not Prison?!!.......

my baby.....

Anonymous said...

no ordinance is going to stop this madness. What will stop kids from dying from alcohol is teaching them how that works. Kids today slam as much alcohol as they possibly can down their throats in the shortest time possible. This isn't just drinking to get drunk - this is extreme drinking. What happens is that the mechanisms that keep you from poisoning yourself (passing out and puking) don't even have time to get triggered before you are in the soup. I never, ever hear that being discussed when some kids dies from drinking and so they don't know and they just keep on doing it. Tragic.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Soccer Mom said...

Dear Anon June 7, 12:24 p.m.
Sorry, but I had to remove your comment, even though you were sharing some potentially interesting information. You used a certain word that I can't allow on this message board. I hear that you feel very strongly about this, and I appreciate you taking the time to comment, to share your opinion, and your information (or rumor): that Joseph had been drinking beer (4?) while also taking medication prescribed to him for an injury.

If that's the case, that will come out in the toxicology tests. And, if that's the case, there is probably a good lesson for everyone about not mixing prescription meds with alcohol.

If he was a friend of yours, I'm very sorry for your loss. Hey, I used to do stuff when I was in high school, college, and in my early 20s. Now, I'm a parent, and I worry that in a few years, my son, when he's out might make a risky choice or mistake that could hurt himself or someone else.

jhon said...

My daughter Bethany was diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve and attended the concert on Sunday - she met all of JLS and they were wonderful to her. Its things like this that gives the children the strength and courage to keep fighting and from a very grateful Mum thank you.
Teenage Cancer said...

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