In the end, both parents — George and Cathy Magas — were charged with assault and with 22 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, most if not all of them 18 to 20 years old.
George Magas, a CPA and longtime civic booster in Damascus, also was charged with one count of “attempting to incite a riot,” police officials said Monday. They alleged that he had been drinking.
“From the parents’ actions, this is about as bad as it can get,” said Capt. Tom Didone, commander of the county police division that oversees efforts to curb teenage drinking. “Why George Magas came out, lashed out, pushing and punching, just makes no sense.”
In response to an e-mail seeking comment, Cathy Magas referred calls to an attorney, Patrick Smith. He said that he is representing the Magases and two of their sons, who were also charged in the incident, but declined to comment.
The party started out innocently enough, a celebration of Nicholas Magas’s 21st birthday at the family’s large house off of Route 108, just east of central Damascus, according to police.
Helen Winner, whose 20-year-old son was at the party, said the Magas family is well-regarded in the area and that the party brought together mostly college kids who were home for the holidays. It was intended as a sleepover. “They’re very nice people and very giving to the community always,” she said. “I think it just kind of escalated and everything went out of control.”
Police were tipped off to the party after a pizza deliveryman dropped off an order and sensed trouble. He then sent a text to a police officer he knows. “Saw some young-looking people with beer,” he wrote, according to arrest records.
Two officers went to check it out, walking toward the house, hearing noises and seeing young men coming out of the home to urinate behind a garage, according to arrest records. The officers spotted a keg at the base of an outside set of stairs and took note of an estimated 35 partygoers.
At first, one of the Magas’ children, who was not charged, “was very cooperative” and told the officers they could come into the house to disperse the party. Then Cathy Magas presented herself, telling the officers that she’d dealt with them before and didn’t want them coming into her home, according to police documents. A Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy started carrying the keg up the stairs in an effort to halt the drinking.
George Magas then came out of the house and “was visibly intoxicated and was slurring his speech,” police said. His son, Nicholas Magas, also came out of the house and tried to grab a case of beer the officers were confiscating. That led an officer to grab Nicholas, who pulled the officer into a doorway, police said.
Things further escalated — with George Magas kicking and punching three officers and trying to grab one of their guns, according to police. The deputy “then struck George Magas several times in an attempt to achieve a change of behavior,” Officer Jeremy Smalley wrote in an arrest affidavit.
Eric Magas, 18, came to his father’s defense, shoving the deputy into a wall, according to police.
Didone, the police captain, said that after years of progress, Montgomery teenagers are drinking at levels they were 20 years ago. “I think we’re slipping back to where we were,” he said.
Part of the problem stems from parents who condone such parties, believing that knowing where kids are drinking is a way to curb them getting behind a wheel while drunk, Didone said. “Parents have this myth that, since they drank when they were young, they can create a safe environment for these kids.”
But trying to keep a lid on teenage drinking doesn’t work and doesn’t keep them from driving drunk. “It’s like herding cats,” Didone said.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.