June 15, 2013

Our View: Underage drinking hosts weren't DA's victims

A Falmouth woman may wish she had not been charged, but it could have been worse.

It seems everybody wants to be a victim these days. Like Paula Spencer, the Falmouth mother who thinks she and her husband were unfairly singled out for community disapproval because theys are well-off.

click image to enlarge

Barry and Paula Spencer are seen Feb. 6 during a break in their trial on charges of allowing dozens of teens to drink during a 2012 party at the family’s Falmouth home. Paula Spencer said this week that she believes she and her husband were singled out for community disapproval because they are well-off.

2013 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

Spencer and her husband, Barry, were charged with giving teens a place to drink after a party at their home got out of control, with as many as 100 teenagers, police said, including some who were dangerously intoxicated. The jury at the Spencers' trial deadlocked, and the Spencers' lawyers negotiated a settlement under which the couple agreed to pay restitution, perform 100 hours of community service and write a public letter of apology.

Apparently, Paula Spencer doesn't believe that apologizing requires taking responsibility -- at least not all of it.

She told a reporter Thursday that she and her husband admitted having made mistakes that night, but they weren't the only ones who erred. "Mistakes were made on everyone's part," she said. "Mistakes were made by the children, too. They brought alcohol."

And Spencer claims that her family's wealth made them targets. "If we lived in a trailer park and didn't have a cent to our name, it would not stir up that kind of anger and resentment."

Spencer should stop feeling sorry for herself. She wasn't a victim, she was lucky. Someone's child could have died at the party that the Spencers thought they were controlling. The Spencers were not charged with hosting "children" who made "mistakes," they were charged with failing to stop illegal acts from taking place on their property. And if they think that people who live in trailer parks have it easier than people who live in luxury, they ought to get out more.

The good news is that even if Paula Spencer did not learn from her ordeal, other parents probably did. Taking kids' car keys away at a party where alcohol is being served is not enough to keep kids safe. As Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said this week, alcohol is involved in twice as many teen deaths outside of vehicles as in.

Kids sometimes drown, fall from high places, get in fights or commit murder or suicide when they are drunk. They are also more likely to develop addictions to alcohol that could affect the course of their lives.

Anderson is ready to charge adults who allow underage drinking to take place, even if they are well-off and able to hire lawyers to defend themselves in court, because the stakes are so high. That's the right approach. We don't need any more victims.


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