TikTok stars charged with misdemeanors related to Hollywood parties during pandemic
A pair of social media stars were charged in Los Angeles this week with misdemeanor crimes for allegedly throwing parties at a Hollywood Hills rental home in violation of public health orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Friday.
Bryce Hall and Blake Gray, who rose to internet fame largely on the video-sharing app TikTok, each face fines of up to $2,000 and one year in jail stemming from large, raucous gatherings that city officials allege the men held earlier this month at a house on Appian Way.
Feuer chided the pair for their alleged behavior at a news event Friday, saying house parties are potential “super-spreader events for COVID-19.”
“If you have a combined 19 million followers on TikTok, in the middle of a public health crisis you should be modeling great behavior, best practices for all of us,” Feuer said, “rather than brazenly violating the law and then posting videos about it, as we allege happened here.”
The house was the site of two parties that drew police on Aug. 8 and 14, officials said. Hall and Gray are accused of violating a city law prohibiting large and unruly gatherings and another law intended to protect the lives of city residents during a local emergency.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who earlier this summer authorized the city to turn off utility services at homes where parties are regularly held, has targeted the house as well, announcing last week that the Department of Water and Power had cut off electricity to the address.
An email to a representative for Hall and Gray wasn’t immediately returned. Hall told TMZ last week that he deserved to have his house’s power shut off by the city and expressed remorse after being asked about one of the parties. “Now, I’m just facing the consequences,” Hall said.
DWP spokeswoman Ellen Cheng said Friday that power had not yet been restored at the Appian Way home. It is unclear if anyone is living there, however. Hall left Los Angeles this week, according to his social media postings.
Even before the pandemic, party houses in the Hollywood Hills and elsewhere were a longtime problem for city officials, who faced complaints from neighborhood groups about noise and crowds.
The issue has been compounded by the rise of TikTok, which has spawned a legion of young social media celebrities. Los Angeles has emerged as a destination for some of the largest personalities, many of whom live together in houses and broadcast their lives to millions of followers. The city is home to about a dozen such houses.
TikTok, which debuted in the U.S. two years ago and is owned by China-based ByteDance, is under pressure from the U.S. government over concerns about how the company handles data collected from U.S. users.
Encino residents Jeffrey and Elisabeth Okun said social media figures have taken over four houses within blocks of their home over the last several years. Only one of the homes has been a problem, the couple said, because of frequent parties .
“It was a very quiet and pleasant place,” Jeffrey Okun said of his neighborhood. “Now we have drag racing at all hours and used condoms everywhere. We have video of girls changing clothes in the street.”
In light of the huge sums the stars on TikTok and other platforms can earn, Jeffrey Okun questioned whether misdemeanor fines of $2,000 or so would deter the parties.
The couple said they want to see the city ban social media figures from using homes in residential neighborhoods to promote themselves. “It’s essentially a business operating in a residential area,” Elisabeth Okun said. “They have no accountability to the neighborhood or the property.”
Feuer said he hopes the charges announced Friday are a deterrent, telling reporters that “one misdemeanor puts one in much more serious circumstances if they commit another misdemeanor in the future.”
“Maybe people are willing to risk being criminals and having that on their record,” Feuer said. “I have to say a party isn’t worth those consequences.”
Feuer’s office also this week filed charges in two other cases related to illicit house parties. The owner of a home on Outpost Drive and the owner of a Sunset View Drive residence were charged, Feuer said. The two homes have also allegedly hosted parties and were previously cited, he said.
Los Angeles isn’t alone in battling party houses during the pandemic. The city of Glendora went to court this week in an effort to stop parties from being hosted at a five-bedroom mansion on Sierra Madre Avenue. Promoters advertised live musical performances, pre-sale tickets and bus transportation for a recent party at the home, which drew hundreds of people, according to city documents.
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