Dad Gets Jail Time For Letting Son, 16, Marry in Las Vegas

ALEXIS SHAW
Good Morning America
Dad Gets Jail Time For Letting Son, 16, Marry in Las Vegas
Dad Gets Jail Time For Letting Son, 16, Marry in Las Vegas (ABC News)

Ordered by a family court judge to enroll his 16-year-old son in a Utah board school, a Florida millionaire instead took a detour to Las Vegas where he signed papers that allowed the child to marry his housekeeper's daughter. That act legally emancipated the son but landed the dad in a Florida jail, where he's started serving a 180-day jail sentence for contempt of court.

Dan Rotta, 65, who resides in Miami Beach's exclusive Fisher Island, was convicted of indirect criminal contempt of court, and was booked in Miami Dade County Jail on Tuesday.

The jail term was the culmination of a string of episodes stemming from Rotta's divorce with his ex-wife, Renee Rotta, which was finalized in April 2009. Dan and Renne have joint custody of their only son, Peter, but the couple has been in court many times since over issues with the child's behavior and his education, according to court records.

In November 2010, Miami Dade Circuit Court judge Kevin Emas mandated that Dan Rotta enroll Peter in Logan River Academy in Logan, Utah, "an educational institution for teenagers who have behavioral, emotional and educational issues," according to court documents.

Mr. Rotta was required by the court to bring his son to the school on November 29, but later received an extension which permitted him to visit on December 8.

"An educational specialist was appointed by the court to determine what would be, at least in the specialist's opinion, the best place for the child," said Rotta's lawyer, Neal Lewis.

Lewis said that Peter had bounced around boarding schools, but experienced problems each time he attended someplace new.

"It was one mistake after another through the system," he said. "To the detriment of the child, it was not working out the way it should have."

Lewis said Rotta had made plans to fly to Las Vegas, and then drive to Utah with his son, who had just turned 16. His housekeeper's daughter, Diana Esperanza Mendoza Guzman, who was 18 at the time, was also in attendance on the trip.

But when they arrived in Las Vegas, they took a detour.

According to court documents, the three went to the Marriage License Bureau on December 9, 2010, in Las Vegas, where Rotta signed off on Peter's marriage to Guzman.

In Nevada, minors can get married in the state if they have the consent of either a parent or a legal guardian.

The marriage legally emancipated Peter Rotta. As a result, the court's mandate to Dan Rotta, which required him to enroll his son in Logan Academy, was rendered irrelevant, since Peter was now considered an adult.

"The consent by the father Dan Rotta to Peter Rotta's marriage was intended to thwart the jurisdiction of the court," court documents said.

But Lewis said that following the Vegas marriage, Dan Rotta and his son did visit Logan River Academy but the school had already decided they were not going to continue to consider Peter for admission.

"He was on his way to the school when he received a notice by email that [Logan River] wasn't accepting him," said Lewis.

At the trial on Tuesday, Lewis said Logan Academy's executive director, Larry Carter, testified that the Peter's marriage was not the basis for the school's failing to admit him, but that the academy did not want to get involved with family litigation.

Carter declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

Lewis said that while he felt that his client complied with the court order to take his son to Logan Academy, the judge determined that getting a minor married in the process was in direct violation of the court order to take him to the facility.

"That's where the judge and I disagree," said Lewis.

Rotta made his money as a former president of a New York company that imported Seiko watches, reported The Miami Herald.

Lewis said Rotta was not granted bond and instead was ordered to jail. Lewis filed an emergency motion for bond on Wednesday as he awaits Rotta's appeals trial in Florida's Third District Court of Appeal.

"It's a sad situation for everybody," said Lewis. "I understand [the court] feels their order was contravened by his actions of getting [Peter] married, but I don't know if that was something that was really the issue."

Since the Logan Academy admissions incident, Lewis said Peter Rotta, now 17, has been enrolled in public school as of January 2011. Lewis said he thinks Peter has been living with his wife at Dan Rotta's residence on Fisher Island.

A woman who answered the phone at the Rotta home said she had no comment.

"As far as I know, he's a straight A student," Lewis said. "That's the one shining thing that came out of this case."

Neither Ms. Rotta nor her lawyer could not be reached for comment.