February 6, 2013

Two versions of teen party given at Falmouth couple's trial

A prosecutor says they did nothing to stop teen drinking. They say the party got out of control.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Prosecutors and the defense in the trial of a Falmouth couple accused of allowing teenagers to drink at a party on their property last year painted vastly different scenarios Monday of what happened that night.

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Barry and Paula Spencer of Falmouth give each other comfort on Monday just before District Attorney Stephanie Anderson and attorneys for the Spencers gave opening arguments in the trial.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographe

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Barry Spencer listens as the judge gives the jury instructions prior to opening arguments on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Cumberland County's top prosecutor, District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, said in her opening statement that Barry and Paula Spencer knew minors were drinking at their Falmouth home on June 16, 2012 and did nothing to stop it.

Defense attorneys said the Spencers did not allow alcohol and did their best to control a party that got out of hand.

The Spencers are on trial in Cumberland County Unified District Court in Portland. Each faces nine misdemeanor counts of allowing minors to possess or consume liquor. They each face up to a year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.

Both sides agree on some facts: The Spencers had permitted their son, Nick Spencer, the captain of the Falmouth High School baseball team, to hold a party at their house at 35 Fieldstone Lane to celebrate winning the state championship. The Falmouth High lacrosse team won its state championship the same day, and the party grew larger as members of the lacrosse team and their friends arrived.

But Barry Spencer's attorney, Walter McKee, said in court Monday that the Spencers made it clear the party was non-alcoholic, and that Barry Spencer spent the evening in the driveway stopping every teenager, searching bags for alcohol and dumping out any he found.

"They were doing the best they could under difficult circumstances to keep alcohol from being on the property," McKee said.

Paula Spencer's attorney, William Childs, read from the report of Falmouth Police Sgt. George Savidge, who stopped by the party: "(Barry Spencer) informed me that the party was alcohol free. However, Barry was concerned about alcohol being secreted onto his property."

Anderson called three witnesses, including two teenagers who were at the party, on the first day of what is expected to be a three-day trial with Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz presiding.

Anderson's first witness was Savidge, the police officer, who said he went to the Spencers' home around 10:40 p.m. after receiving an anonymous tip. He was greeted in the driveway by Barry Spencer.

"I told him that I was there investigating a tip that underage drinking was occurring," Savidge said. "He was very open and said he had a party going on and that he was the host to the baseball and lacrosse teams and that it was alcohol free."

Savidge said that he offered to help keep the party from getting out of control.

"I told him we would monitor the area around his property to make sure no one sneaked in," he said. "(Barry Spencer) would be responsible for his property, and we would be responsible for the area around his property."

Savidge said he then left, but went back about an hour later after another patrol officer stopped a car in the area driven by a woman whose daughter was in the passenger seat and appeared to be intoxicated.

Other officers broke up the party and took teenagers into custody. Savidge said he found a teenage boy passed out drunk on a neighbor's lawn.

"He was covered in vomit, and there was vomit where he was lying on the ground," he testified.

Callan Donovan said she was a student at Falmouth High at the time and learned about the party via text message.

Donovan, now 19, said she arrived with a backpack filled with beer and that no one at the party told her drinking was not allowed.

Donovan said the "majority" of the people at the party were drinking openly, that teenagers were playing a "beer pong" drinking game in the basement and that Nick Spencer had told them to put their empty beer cans in a plastic trash bag.

Donovan said when police arrived the second time, an officer pulled her to the ground when she tried to run. She was not charged and was promised immunity in exchange for her testimony, she said under cross-examination by McKee.

A 17-year-old Falmouth High student said she was given a beer at the party by a boy she didn't know and that her friends shared their mixed alcoholic drinks with her.

She said she was not told that drinking was not allowed, but said she saw Barry Spencer in the driveway after police came the first time and that partygoers tried to hide their alcohol after that.

"It definitely quieted down some, but there were definitely some kids that were still drinking," she said.

The teen testified she tried to drive home but was pulled over and taken into custody after she registered 0.03 percent blood alcohol level on a breathalyzer test. She lost her driver's license and was grounded by her parents into the following school year, she said.

The Falmouth case has sparked discussion on the Falmouth School Board about teenage substance abuse and parental responsibility.

Among the most controversial proposals from the board is a "knowingly present" clause, which would hold students responsible for illegal activity at a party they attend, even if they don't do anything wrong themselves.

The draft policy, which still requires a vote by the board, is to be presented at a board workshop at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Falmouth Elementary School.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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Additional Photos

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William Childs, attorney for Paula Spencer, pours a glass of water as she listens to the judge give instructions to the attorneys before opening arguments.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Walter McKee, attorney for Barry Spencer, gives his opening arguments. The Spencers allegedly provided a place for underaged people to drink.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Flanked by the court reporter and the judge, District Attorney Stephanie Anderson gives her opening argument at the trial of Barry and Paula Spencer of Falmouth. Walter McKee, attorney for Barry Spencer, gives his opening arguments. The Spencers allegedly provided a place for underaged people to drink.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer



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