Probation for 6 whose party trashed house

Posted: June 23, 2007

Six of the 13 teenagers arrested after a boozy party that trashed a Haddonfield home while its residents were away struck plea-bargain deals yesterday that allowed them a year's probation, but only after they recounted what they had done and promised to stay away from the family that lives in the house.

The teens also had to tell the names of other youngsters who were at the March 3 party. Some testified yesterday in Camden County Family Court that from 60 to 80 people attended the bash, but none named more than a handful of fellow partygoers.

The party house sustained about $18,000 in damage. Youths defecated on a Steinway grand piano, ejaculated onto stuffed animals, and sprayed a urine-filled Super Soaker water gun at upholstered furniture.

The case has been the talk of South Jersey. Haddonfield Mayor Tish Colombi has used it as a rallying cry against underage drinking and adults who condone it.

The five boys and one girl who were in court yesterday - all accompanied by parents and lawyers - had been charged with potentially serious crimes that included burglary. In yesterday's deal, four of the teens pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and two to trespassing.

All escaped detention, unless they get into other trouble with the law or with drugs or alcohol in the next year. If they stay out of trouble, the charges will be dismissed.

Four other teens pleaded guilty this week and made similar plea bargains, according to Bill Shralow, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

Three defendants continue to plead not guilty. Judge Angelo DiCamillo scheduled their trial for Aug. 20.

Despite the heavy damage, DiCamillo ordered the 10 youths who have pleaded guilty only to pay a combined total of $750, the amount that the victim's insurance did not cover.

Colleen Falasca, whose house was trashed, was clearly unhappy. Saying she was too upset to speak, she handed the judge a written statement that began, "I am disappointed and feel let down by the juvenile justice system."

DiCamillo said he would not finish reading it because "it attacks the juvenile justice system."

Later, he softened.

Falasca testified that "the harassment has been ongoing after this." She said she is concerned about her children, five of whom will attend Haddonfield Memorial High School in the fall.

"A lot of bad things have happened to us," she said, including identity theft and flat tires on her car four weekends in a row.

DiCamillo told the defendants not to bother the family and to tell their friends.

"Go tell everyone. Leave this family alone," DiCamillo said. "They've been harmed enough."

One defendant admitted urinating into a Super Soaker, and another said he sprayed the water gun around the house. A third said he went to the party for less than an hour before calling his father to bring him home.

DiCamillo asked them and their parents if they wished to make any other statements. They all said no.

As the fourth teen faced him, DiCamillo asked, "Do you think it would be a good idea to apologize?"

That boy, who admitted stomping on a video game, said, "I apologize about your family and your house, and I'm truly sorry for everything that's happened."

His father talked about being disappointed as a parent. "Maybe it's this society run amok."

A fifth boy, who admitted to urinating on a computer keyboard, also took the judge's suggestion to apologize.

"Sorry for all the damage I caused your home and all the emotional stress that went with it," the teen said.

Then his father stood and said, "I'd like to apologize as a parent to another for the conduct of my child."

He was the only parent to do so in court yesterday.

Attorneys for some of the families asked the judge to order that the guilty pleas could not be used in any civil lawsuits that might arise from the vandalism.

The judge declined to consider the request yesterday.

DiCamillo reserved his sharpest tone for the girl who admitted talking a key from under a foot mat at the house and letting others in.

That girl testified that a teenage girl who lived with the Falasca family said she wanted to have a party and told where the key was hidden. The girl who lived with the family later had second thoughts, according to testimony, and did not attend the party.

"Why do I get the feeling we have a child living with foster parents who wanted to make friends?" said DiCamillo to the teenager, whom he called popular.

In court, Falasca said that girl and her mother apologized the day after the party – a gesture she said did not seem "heartfelt." Falasca said the mother said her daughter had done something similar at her own home. Falasca also told the judge that the girl had harassed her foster daughter.

DiCamillo told the girl he was "reluctantly" accepting her plea and urged her to stop any harassment of the family.

"You have the power to end this," he said. "Make it end."

He also suggested she and the boy who urinated on the computer keyboard consider alcohol counseling.

Falasca, outside court, said she didn't think the defendants told all they knew.

"I think the kids are covering for each other," she said.


Contact staff writer Rita Giordano at 856-779-3841 or rgiordano@phillynews.com.

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