Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A couple from Falmouth charged with letting minors drink at a party at their house to celebrate two high school sports championships may be fined thousands of dollars.
Falmouth police say Barry and Paula Spencer, the owners of this house at 35 Fieldstone Drive, have been charged with furnishing a place for minors to drink alcohol.
Photo by Gillian Graham / Staff Writer
A Cumberland County grand jury has indicted Barry Spencer, 53, and Paula Spencer, 52, on nine counts each of allowing a minor to possess or consume alcohol, a misdemeanor.
The indictments, made public Tuesday, mean the grand jury believed there was enough evidence of a crime to go forward with prosecution. Earlier charges by Falmouth police had been dismissed by prosecutors, according to a defense attorney in the case.
The charge of allowing a minor to possess or consume alcohol includes a mandatory $1,000 fine if the minor is younger than 18. Police say that was the case at the Spencers' home in June, so each one could be fined $1,000 on each count. Both are pleading not guilty.
It wasn't clear Wednesday whether all nine counts involve youths who were younger than 18.
Walter McKee, who represents Barry Spencer, said, "I think mandatory minimum penalties are a bad idea" because they remove judicial discretion.
The charges stem from a party on June 16 that rekindled the debate about the dangers of underage drinking and the role parents play when hosting parties.
Falmouth High School had won Class B state championships in baseball and lacrosse that Saturday -- the day after school ended for the year -- and members of those teams were among the teenagers who gathered, police said.
Police say 75 to 100 high school students were at the house at 35 Fieldstone Drive, and 35 to 40 cars.
William Childs, the attorney for Paula Spencer, said it's his understanding that the party was supposed to be a modest gathering, but grew into something the Spencers hadn't anticipated, even drawing teenagers from other towns.
"I think it's safe to say things spiraled out of control," he said.
McKee, a former president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said it's unusual for prosecutors to seek indictments in misdemeanor cases.
The initial summons that police issued to the Spencers did not lead to a complaint by prosecutors, McKee said, possibly because prosecutors wanted to present the case to a grand jury and use it to compel testimony.
Police say they initially got a tip about underage drinking at the party, but when they went to check at 10:30 p.m., they were told by Barry Spencer that there was no drinking.
An hour later, police stopped a car with teenage passengers who said they had been drinking at the Spencers' home.
Four officers went to the home and found minors drinking and smoking marijuana, police said. They said they found one teenager passed out on a nearby lawn and vomit on one of the cars.
Police said no responsible homeowner could have been unaware of what was happening.
A 17-year-old girl was charged with administrative drunken driving, meaning her blood alcohol content was less than 0.08 percent, but because she is younger than 21 she is not allowed to drive with any alcohol in her system.
Two other teenagers were charged with possession of alcohol, and another was charged with possession of marijuana. Three were charged with possession of alcohol by consumption.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: