A text message from a Parkside family to a teenage cat sitter opened the door for a wild party of area high school students and the trashing of the family’s house last month, the lawyer for the cat sitter and her parents said Friday.
After the 17-year-old City Honors School student agreed to Kristen Segebarth’s request that she watch the family’s seven cats, Segebarth texted the teen with her thanks and a few other remarks that attorney Michael S. Taheri says were not only inappropriate but sent the wrong message.
“The kitties thank you and said that if you need to rendezvous with someone in the house while the Binder family is away, they’ll stay in the background [no huge drunken orgies tho, ok? Just small ones.] Heard the Yale interview went well!”
Taheri says the teen construed Segebarth’s text as a green light that she could invite friends to the house on Florence Avenue, and the lawyer added it was one of those friends who then invited others over while the 17-year-old went out on a baby-sitting job.
But Segebarth said she was jesting, perhaps being sarcastic as well, but meant exactly the opposite in her text message. To clear up any misunderstanding before they went away, Segebarth said her 18-year-old daughter, Zoey Binder, sent a follow-up text to make it bluntly clear parties were not allowed:
“NO [expletive] PARTIES IN THE HOME.”
Segebarth said her daughter sent the text to the girl, who is a longtime friend of Zoey from City Honors, in the days before the family left for a dream vacation to Costa Rica to belatedly celebrate Zoey’s graduation from City Honors last June and her attendance at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college.
From the reports provided by Segebarth and her husband, Steven Binder, the Dec. 27 party turned into nothing short of a drunken orgy. When they returned home a day later from the vacation, they said they found their home littered with used condoms, vomit, urine and feces on beds, rugs and furniture. There were holes knocked into walls, graffiti on walls, and $6,000 in cash and some keepsake jewelry were missing.
But Taheri said the cat sitter cannot be held accountable for the actions of the nearly 50 teenage partygoers and that she is more a victim of circumstances than an instigator.
“This is a young lady who is an honor student, applied to Ivy League colleges, has exceptional SAT scores and has no criminal record whatsoever. Zero,” Taheri said.
He said the family is willing to make restitution.
The attorney said the girl and her parents gave him an extensive account of how she came to watch over the Parkside family’s cats.
“We have fully cooperated with the police, given a list of the people at the party to the police and the family. They have also notified their homeowners insurance policy and gotten a claim number for the Binders,” the attorney said.
But he said that Steven Binder has proven difficult to work with in reaching an amicable resolution.
As proof that Binder is being unreasonable, Taheri provided this text message Binder sent to the girl’s parents:
“Apparently I did not make myself clear on Sunday. Please have ------ transmit the names of the kids she brought and left here and the names of the additional kids she knows were here to me before school this morning. Or I will be at CHS [City Honors School] to get them in a decidedly less private manner later. The names of the kids who were on the third floor need to be forthcoming in short order as well.”
The cat sitter’s mother provided Taheri with a detailed statement on how things got out of hand on Dec. 27. It also explained that her daughter said Segebarth told her she could have friends over to the house. But when she went out to baby sit, one of the two girlfriends she had invited over and who remained at the Binders’ Florence Avenue home invited several other young people without her daughter’s knowledge. Taheri added that he does not know if the people invited were acquainted with the cat sitter.
At about 10:30 p.m., the second girlfriend, who had not been involved in the blanket invitations, sent a text, alerting the cat sitter, who was still baby-sitting, that there was “a mob and she had to come back ASAP.”
“It took until 1 a.m. to get everyone out of the house,” the mother stated.
Hours later, following the party, the daughter informed her parents she was starting her day by going to yoga.
“At 1:45 p.m., she texted us that she had lied,” the mother said, “that there had been a mob at the house the night before and she was cleaning up and needed our help. She said she hadn’t slept because she was so upset and got up early in the morning and went back there to clean.
“Several kids came and helped for about an hour in the morning. We went over and there was vomit everywhere, broken furniture and dirt and mess. We helped her vacuum, do laundry and take out trash and broken glass …”
The mother said she instructed her daughter to send a text message to Zoey asking that she call. But because the Binders were on a plane, the text did not go through.
As a punishment, the mother said her daughter was losing her car privileges and all of her savings will go to pay for the damages.
Taheri, however, believes Steven Binder has behaved unreasonably in demanding that his clients reimburse the family $8,500 for the cost of the vacation because the party and subsequent damage ended up ruining the vacation.
“Certainly my clients want the Binders made whole,” he said, “and they feel terrible about what has happened with the entire ordeal and it will ultimately be sorted out through the insurance companies and it may take some time and we’ll continue to cooperate with law enforcement and the insurance companies. We want this made right.”
Binder and Segebarth, expressing outrage that they are being portrayed as scapegoats, offered a different perspective.
They say that they have had to initiate all the contact with the cat sitter and her parents and they have seen no willingness to settle the matter. They also had no idea that the family had retained Taheri.
“I would have liked to have resolved this without it going legal or going to the media,” Binder said. “They have made no efforts to contact us and say how they want to make this right. Every contact has been initiated by us and we haven’t heard a word from their lawyer.”
“All she had to do was say she was sorry,” Segebarth said of the cat sitter, “and communicate with us.”