BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As four young men sat on the couch of a home near Howard City Monday, each defended the now infamous rave southeast of Big Rapids that sent several people to the hospital and led to one rape investigation.
“We threw a party, and that’s not illegal,” Danny Misner, one of the four, said.
Those words might come back to haunt Misner. He’s one of three people who now face charges connected to the weekend rave advertised as “Project P” on 70th Avenue near 5 Mile Road in rural southern Mecosta County. As of Friday morning, he was in police custody.
“Many of the organizers have gone on TV, have acknowledged their behavior and their conduct. And we certainly appreciate them for doing that, because it’s made our job a lot easier,” said Mecosta County Prosecutor Pete Jaklevic.
Jaklevic announced Thursday that Misner, 21, of Howard City; 20-year-old Brittany Johnson of Cedar Springs; and 21-year-old James Taylor — who owns the Hinton Township property where the party was held — are each accused of maintaining, operating or furnishing a location and collecting fees for parking at the party where alcohol was being served without a liquor license.
“These offenses are one-year felonies offenses and carry a maximum fine of $1,000,” he said.
More charges could be filed later.
While authorities said they aren’t aware of any upcoming raves in the county, Jaklevic said Thursday their goal was to make sure what happened over the weekend doesn’t happen again.
One tactic authorities are considering is confiscating the cars of partygoers. The prosecutor says the law allows authorities to consider the parties a public nuisance, which is a civil offense that gives police a number of options, including confiscating and keeping a vehicle through forfeiture.
“Now that’s not to say we’re going to do that. But that is a tool and an option that we have to stem what we hope is an isolated incident,” Jaklevic said. “But if it is going to be a continuing activity, this is an option that we have. ”
Some say breaking up the original party would have been the correct way to send a message.
It was a judgment call for Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell.
“Talk on social media was that they we’re going to riot and take on the police,” Purcell said.
Purcell was concerned that sending in deputies could cause partygoers, many drunk and unfamiliar with the area, to head for the woods, possibly getting lost or wandering across roadways in the dark, putting themselves in danger.
Others may have found their way to their car and hit the road while under the influence, putting both themselves and the public at risk.
But there were also reports of drug overdoses, underage drinking and a rape occurring not far from where police set up their perimeter.
The sheriff says knowing what he knows now, including the report of a rape, he would not have handled the situation any differently.
“I don’t regret any decision I made that night,” Purcell said. “A lot of variables go into a decision like that, and the main variable was you had kids from all over the state at the party.”
Purcell said during the news conference the criminal sexual conduct report is still under investigation.
Johnson was arrested Wednesday night and was expected to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.
Police believe Taylor headed to California.