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

The two were married in Las Vegas, where it is legal for a 16-year-old to wed.

ByABC News
July 12, 2012, 2:20 PM

July 13, 2012— -- 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 Renee 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.