By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
On a long, winding suburban street set between the Sugar Land Country Club and a pea-green lagoon, there sits a white-brick, two-story mansion that boasts a working elevator, a wraparound balcony and a large indoor pool with a retractable roof. The head of the household, who serves as Chinese ambassador to Belize, has embarked on a trip and left his 18-year-old son home alone.
The young man, William Quinto, isn't exactly the most popular kid in school.
Jessica Mojtahedi, another Dulles student, is less generous: "He's a dork."
While his parents are away, the Quinto son does what any rich diplomat's child who lives in a posh house and is just weeks away from graduation is expected to do: He throws a huge party. Teenagers arrive in droves, lining both sides of the normally empty residential street with their parents' SUVs.
A couple of hours later, the Sugar Land Police Department fields a pair of complaints. One is from a neighbor who says she sees kids boozing in the yard and smells marijuana wafting over her fence. The other is from an anonymous caller who many later believe is a Dulles student exacting revenge for not having been invited to partake in the festivities.
A couple of squad cars pull up and park several houses away. According to the kids, the teens spot the police, dart inside the house, and race to lock all the doors and turn out the lights. A cop shines a flashlight through a window and bangs on the front door, but to no avail. He crosses through a wooden gate into the backyard, climbs a staircase and bursts through a second-floor back door, then sprints downstairs to let in five other officers.
As the police raid the house, more than a dozen teens leap some 15 feet off the balcony, scale the back fence and disappear into the neighborhood; several others stow away in a small room off the garage and successfully remain hidden until the cops are gone.
Police corral the remaining three dozen youngsters, ages 15 to 19, into an upstairs living room and make a blanket announcement: Everyone present will be served with citations for minor in possession of alcohol, or MIP, a class C misdemeanor.
Mojtahedi is in a first-floor bedroom. She retreats into a hallway to fetch her shoes and purse when she hears a voice. "Young lady, stop or I'll shoot you!" an officer warns, according to Mojtahedi (an account supported by several witnesses).
Kids are freaking out, shrieking and flipping open their cell phones to call their parents. Several ask to take breath-analyzer tests to prove their sobriety but are refused.
What they are about to discover is that no matter how "normal" or "traditional" drinking parties for teens are in suburbia, Sugar Land has decided to play hardball, and the Fort Bend Independent School District will be right there with it. And that when a student gets crosswise with the school district, trying to ask for "due process" or "a hearing before punishment" is pretty ineffective.
"All y'all are gonna get MIP tickets, all right?" an officer says. "This is not an admission of guilt. If you don't want to sign it, let us know, and you're gonna get cuffed. You get one chance to sign it. We're not gonna play games. If you don't want to sign it, raise your hand now and we'll take you to jail, okay?"
Byron Hrbacek, a star baseball player at Dulles, asks to call his father, who happens to be a former three-term mayor of Sugar Land.
Caught on a police audio tape, an officer replies: "I will not put up with any disrespect out of somebody like you." He then slaps handcuffs on the 17-year-old, makes him sit on the floor for half an hour while all the others wisely sign their tickets, and finally hauls him off to jail.
Hrbacek says he only asked a question and never refused to sign the ticket. Witnesses said the officer knew the boy was the former mayor's son, and according to several affidavits, the officer says that he's going to teach him a lesson that his father can't get him out of everything.
Hrbacek's father, Dean, is livid about this. "If an officer has an issue with me, deal with me; don't go pick on my son," he says.
Quinto, who declined comment to the Press, also was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance that forbids hosting underage drinking parties. Everyone else was ticketed and sent home.
Fallout from the April 14 raid will likely drag on for several months. Some 18 formal complaints were filed with the police department, each of which has prompted an internal investigation. Partygoers claim they weren't drinking alcohol and contend that police were overly aggressive. Nearly 30 of the 37 MIP citations issued that night are being contested in municipal court by a small army of attorneys who say that the officers had no legal right even to enter the house.
Several grievances also were filed with Dulles High School and the Fort Bend Independent School District, which punished the students even before they had a chance to contest the citations. The school doled out 20-day suspensions from extracurricular activities to every student ticketed by police.