SPARTA, NJ – Sparta parents face multiple charges for hosting an underage drinking party which ended with a 15 year-old boy in the hospital.
On April 23 Sparta police received several complaints of juveniles “committing acts of criminal mischief” to mailboxes and light posts on Valley View Trail around 9:50 p.m.
A resident called police and an ambulance when one of the youths who was running away on Partridge Lane ran into a mailbox and injured himself police report.
Before help arrived, Sparta residents Daniel and Karen Gitelman came to the injured juvenile. Over the objection of the resident who had called police, the Gitelmans picked up the injured boy and brought him back to their home on Westgate Drive, police said..
When Sparta Cpl Robert Fraser and Officer Taylor May arrived, with a Sparta ambulance, the man who called them explained that the Gitlemans had taken the injured boy back to their home.
Cpl Fraser and PO May went to the Gitelmans home where they were met at the front door by Daniel Gitelman. He told the police officers that the injured boy had been picked up and taken home by his mother, police said.
The officers and ambulance squad were in the process of leaving to go to the boy’s home when Daniel Gitelman came back out of the house. He told the responders that the boy “was in fact on his back screen porch.”
The rescue personnel found the boy “face down on the floor, unconscious with blood coming out of his nostrils and scrapes and bruises on his forehead.” The 15 year-old was then transported to Newton Medical Center by Sparta First Aid Squad and the Paramedics from St Clare’s according to police.
He was admitted for alcohol poisoning and was released on Sunday afternoon according to police.
While the boy was being loaded into the ambulance, Sparta police received an additional call from a resident of the same neighborhood. The neighbor said, while they were assisting the injured boy in the front of the house, several other youths were running out of the back door.
Sparta police officers responded. While searching for the juveniles they found several partially empty containers of alcohol “strewn about neighboring lawns and surrounding streets.” Two drunk youths were taken into protective custody. They were transported to Sparta Police Department headquarters and turned over to their parents police said.
Cpl Fraser returned to the Gitelman home, asking for their help in identifying the youths who fled. Cpl Fraser explained they wanted to be sure they were all safe and returned home to their parents especially in light of the one boy who had been found injured and unconscious. According to police Karen Gitelman refused to help.
Less than an hour later the Gitelmans arrived at police headquarters with a list of names of the other youths. Police said by that time they had identified about a dozen others who had attended the party and were in the process of locating them and notifying their parents.
The two-week investigation into the “underage alcohol party at the Gitelman residence” was conducted by Det Brian Hassloch. He interviewed the juveniles and the neighbors who had property damage.
Daniel and Karen Gitelman were charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Obstructing the Administration of Law and Hosting an Underage Drinking Party.
According to Det Hassloch the Gitelmans assumed the responsibility for the of the 15 year-old and he came to harm, making him an abused or neglected child. New Jersey statute Chapter 6 Title 9 is relevant in this case because the Gitelmans came and took the injured child away “from the scene where medical aid was responding” and brought him back to their home at 31 Westgate Drive. This situation was further exacerbated by the facts that the boy was brought to the home “incapacitated due to alcohol consumption” and Daniel Gitelman’s lying to police caused a delay in receiving medical attention.
Lying to the police, hindering them from doing their job, in this case stopping them from rendering aid to the incapacitated boy, is considered obstruction.
Hosting an Underage Drinking Party is self-explanatory. In this case the homeowners, the Gitelmans, allowed their home to be available to minors to drink alcohol.
The Gitelmans turned themselves into the Sparta Police Department headquarters where they were placed under arrest at 10 a.m. on Thursday. They were charged and released. They have their first court appearance in Superior Court in Newton on May 11 at 8:30 a.m.
Request for clarification about Sparta Police Department policy regarding hosting underage drinking, Operations Division Commander Lt John Paul Beebee said, “This is a very serious issue. It is not about curtailing anyone’s fun; it is about public safety. It is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. Period.
“Nobody has the authority to allow anyone under 21 to drink. You cannot just say you are collecting their keys so they don’t drive and then let them drink.
“They must be supervised. Just as you supervise your own children. Homeowners have to realize they assume liability for anyone that they allow on their property. They are responsible for their behavior. If something happens they will be liable.”
According to police the investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be added.