Boca Raton: House party parents escape conviction

By Steve Plunkett

                  The parents charged with hosting an “open house party” crashed by hundreds of beer-toting high school students in the gated Sanctuary enclave ended their day in court with adjudication withheld.

                  Shlomo and Jeannie Rasabi, who pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, will not have a conviction on their records. Judge Barry M. Cohen assessed court costs of $253 each but no jail time or fine.

                  “Good luck to you both,” Cohen said after sentencing them June 20.

                  Violations of the state’s “open house party” law carry a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. But a pre-sentence investigation said at worst, the Rasabis should be given six months probation, ordered to serve on a victim impact panel, work 100 community service hours and give 12 lectures on teen alcohol use.

                  Cohen said he did not want to clog the probation system with NORPs, meaning “normal, ordinary responsible persons.” He said the Rasabis did not purchase, arrange for or have prior knowledge of alcohol at the Oct. 10 party. He also noted that the pre-sentence report said the Rasabis had already suffered.

                  “The economic costs resulting from this incident to the couple has been great, and the publicity generated by the media has cost them dearly in terms of stress and difficulty with the children’s school and parents of children at American Heritage,” the report said, referring to the private school in Plantation where the Rasabis’ two sons attended.

                  The report included an example of hate mail the Rasabis received that Cohen read in court. “You are also perfectly behaving in a manner Boca Jews can only conduct themselves — selfish and arrogant,” the letter said.

                  After the sentencing Jeannie Rasabi said their sons’ classmates marveled at the home in the Sanctuary they were borrowing for the after-homecoming event. They found pictures online of the 17,000-square-foot house, which is unfurnished and for sale, and said, “Ooh, we have to go to this party,” Rasabi said.

                  “Obviously we care about teen, underage drinking,’’ Jeannie Rasabi said. “We never suspected they’d be intoxicated in our home.”

                  Media coverage was intense. “No shelter at The Sanctuary for liquored up American Heritage pupils,” The Palm Beach Post blogged. “Son held drunken party for 600 friends after banishing parents to bedroom of their multi-million-dollar mansion,” England’s Daily Mail reported online.

                  Shlomo Rasabi, who lives with his family in Plantation, is the property manager of the house and asked its owner for permission to hold the party. He and his wife also hired four men to help chaperone the event and told the Sanctuary’s homeowner association and security service about it, they told the pre-sentence investigator. They expected about 100 guests to arrive in two chartered buses, but at least 500 teenagers in four buses arrived, the pre-sentence report said. They quickly asked security to call the police, it said.

                  The Rasabis disputed a police report that said they stayed “in their bedroom” during the party, “which is understandable in light of the fact that the house was unfurnished,” the pre-sentence report said. Instead, Shlomo Rasabi stationed himself on a rear balcony and Jeannie Rasabi kept near the swimming pool because they worried someone might drown, the report said.

                  They also complained that when Boca Raton officers took them to the police station, they left 26 teens at the house with no adult supervision and also left the alcohol there, the report said.

                  “They said , ‘It’s OK, we have pictures [for evidence],’ ” Jeannie Rasabi said after the court hearing.

                  The Rasabis’ older son graduated from American Heritage in May with high honors, but they could not keep their younger son there “because of the financial burden associated with defending themselves,” the pre-sentence report said. Neither boy was found to be drinking at the party, Rasabi attorney Adam Harmelin said.

                  Paul and Ingrid Paolino, the parents charged the following weekend with hosting a similar though much smaller party on Spanish River Road, also had adjudication withheld and paid $253 each in court costs. But their case was resolved by a plea deal in May, just hours before their attorney was prepared to argue that police searched their property without a warrant.

                  Jeannie Rasabi was surprised to hear the other couple was not punished more severely, saying the Paolinos admitted knowing their underage guests were drinking. But Rasabi said she and her husband could not have accused police of making an illegal search.

                  “We let them in,” Jeannie Rasabi said. “We wanted help.”


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