Monday, June 11, 2007

Felonious partying

When I graduated from high school, the parents of one of my friends threw a graduation bash. It was a well-chaperoned even, but not intrusively so, and about the only complaint any of us could come up with was the quality of the beer the hosts provided. Even at that tender age, most of us had better taste than to quaff Pabst Blue Ribbon if we had a choice. But beggars can't be choosers, so quaff we did. It was a nice change of pace to drink in a comfortable backyard instead of the woods or a parking lot. After all, even in those comparatively civilized days of a drinking age of 18, most of us were under-age and accustomed to sneaking around to get our booze.

Today, my friend's parents might face jail time for providing us with a safe, supervised party. They might draw the same fate as Elisa Kelly and George Robinson, of Albemarle County, Virginia, who have been sentenced to 27 months in prison for serving alcoholic beverages at their son's 16th birthday party.

Actually, Kelly and Robinson could have done even worse. They were originally sentenced to eight years in prison by a judge who, we can only be thankful, was unable to actually impose the death penalty. Given the judge's taste for harsh sentences, I'm certain he wouldn't object to the extended horse-whipping he so richly deserves.

And let's not forget the creature who brought the charges to begin with. That would be Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James L. Camblos III, who claims this is the worst case of underage drinking he has had to deal with in 15 years. Really? The drinkers were supervised and kept in a controlled environment where car keys were collected from the party-goers and that's the worst case he's seen? I can only assume that my friends and I would have driven him to apoplexy with our behavior.

Kids experiment no matter what you want them to do. When I was 16, I had a fake ID that I used for buying booze. I didn't use it as often as I could have only because I preferred to smoke grass--I liked the high better, and the stuff was easier to transport. Banning us from drinking (or smoking grass) didn't stop the behavior; it drove it underground into relatively risky venues. One of the safer experiences I had as a teenager was that supervised graduation party.

I'm sure the same goes for the kids hosted by Elisa Kelly and George Robinson, who provided a great service by throwing a chaperoned party for their son. The shindig was almost certainly far safer than the environments in which they usually drank beer out of sight of adult eyes before driving home three sheets to the wind.

Twenty-seven months is a long time to spend in prison for doing the right thing. I'll bet other parents will think long and hard before they provide a safe environment for their kids to learn how to drink responsibly.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say I share your sentiments. Shame on the prosecutor, the judge and the lawmakers for producing this travesty. Making drinking illegal to under 21s is stupid on so many levels.
An under 21 year old might have a job, and might have hoped to relax after work with over 21 year co-workers. Hmm.. can't drink with them. Thats not going to help!
An under 21 might decide, to hell with that law, I'll get the booze anyway. Who from? A responsible person? No! Because a responsible person CAN'T supply an under 21 year old with booze. Okay, go to someone who doesn't feel so responsible. Maybe they will offer some other drugs too.
What about responsible drinking. Anyone to keep the drunks in check? Nope, all the "adults" won't want to have anything to do with the under 21s. So that means a bunch of under 21s getting drunk without any mentoring!

America would do well to look at France or Belgium. Lower age limits and yet, less problems. Stories like Elisa's make me glad I'm not American living in the USA.

June 13, 2007 7:59 AM  
Blogger C. Overgaard said...

I do not understand such laws.

In Denmark we have no lower limit for alcohol consumption and a 16 year limit for alcohol purchase. Our youth has to go to the city hall once they turn 16 in order to obtain an ID-card, which confirms the age in shops. We are talking of access to al kind of alcohol, not only beer and wine.

Why do we have such laws? Because we wanted to lower the number of DUI conviction and not least the number of people killed on our roads. Our strategy is an success if you count 73 people killed due to alcohol related accidents during the entire year of 2006 an success and we are talking of a population of 5,000,000 people.

When does the Danish teens start to drink? According to a study about 20 percent of teens under 15 have been drunk several times before sobering up when they find out what good things in life they miss because they are unable to attend the activities because they are too drunk. In the summer groups of teens aged down to 12 are seen drinking in groups at parks and beaches always with a concerned parent in somewhat distance. Please notice. They are drinking with parental approval because if the parents buy, they can adjust the amount and they can address problems more freely because the teenagers does not have to hide their intake.

That is properly why we also avoid problems like teenage pregnancies and some of the violence. Violence does exist, but the majority of the convicted are people who can not drink due to religious reasons and therefore enjoy social interaction. They become marginalized and angry. Teenage pregnancies are so rare (The average age of a mother, who is giving birth is now late in the 20's, which cause other problems.) that we even have TV-series about the few.

Our only problem is that we are aware of is the pub-crawling journeys, who are sold all over Europe to Bulgaria. In the future we will inform our youth better, so they know that it is safer to avoid drinking and social interaction, while being on Holiday in another country. Just the last 14 days one Dane aged 17 have been killed because the drug the ice-cubes in the drinks so people are fooled to drink more than there health can take and 4 Danish women had been raped.

I think that your country should see to Europe for strategies and especially give the youth access to alcohol, which is a dangerous product. So dangerous in fact that adjusting to it is something that teenagers should use years to learn about before they can buy it on their own. We have saved 200 lives per year by learning our teenagers of the dangers. Just try to calculate how many lives you could save.

July 19, 2007 12:03 PM  
Anonymous Richard DeLoria said...

This type of commentary, uninformed, is what makes me sick. Had any responsible journalist actually attended the hearings or at the least ordered transcripts to review there would be some semblance of understanding and appreciation for how egregious the crimes really were.

First, the illegal party, organized by adults knowing there would be underage drinking, sponsored the party only a month after the kids' classmate killed herself and severly and permanently injured a friend in an underage drunk driving accident. The dead classmate was not even cold in the grave before the parents sponsored their drunkfest.

Second, the mother, Mrs. Robinson, purchased just short of $500 worth of alcohol for the group. This was not a party of moderation, but one of grotesque excess. There was enough alcohol readily available for each participant to suffer acute alcohol poisoning. Nice lesson on mom's part. Perhaps she thought it was an extended college prep course. Or maybe she just wanted to be popular with the kids.

Third, responsible parents who cared about their kids' health and safety called Mrs. Robinson to make sure there was no alcohol at the party. Those parents apparently had not forgotten about their kids' recently dead and maimed classmates. And Mrs. Robinson's response to the inquiry: "No. There will be no alcohol." Nice lie.

Third, the effort to collect keys obviously failed immensely. When the police arrived, the kids scattered. Several later returned only to hop into their cars and attempt to flee. So much for hostess responsibility and her respect for parents who actually tried to be responsible.

Jim Camblos was not only acting in the best interests of the community in prosecuting the case, but it would have been dereliction of duty for him not to have prosecuted. Did Robinson deserve 8 years or 27 months imposed by the judges or even the 90 days recommended by Camblos? That is debatable, but probably would not have been an issue had Robinson or her husband accepted even a shred of responsibility and admitted what they had done. Instead they tried to get off on a technicality and fought the case in the district court, circuit court, court of appeals, Virginia Supreme Court and right on up to the United States Supreme Court, which all rightly rejected the appeal.

Elisa Robinson is no saint or martyr and does not deserve to be put on a pedestal as some example of social responsibility flying in the face of legislative excess. She intentionally created an extremely dangerous situation over which she had little, if any, ultimate control and lied to parents who made a good faith effort to keep their own children safe from a conniving parent like her. This case was egregious and could have been made worse only if another Albemarle High School student had been injured or killed. I'm just happy my own kids weren't old enough to have been invited to Mrs. Robinson's Drunk Fest.

Richard DeLoria, Former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney for Albemarle County

August 8, 2007 7:56 AM  
Blogger rhec said...

Richard DeLoria represents the fine example of prosecutorial stupidity. Dangerous? Cops shoot innocent people everyday in this country. Isn't giving individuals with barely a high school education a gun and a badge dangerous? Isn't letting a child drive dangerous? Drinking in and of itself isn't anymore dangerous then any other activity. How many children die every year from overdosing on vitamins? Isn't that dangerous? Prosecutors and judges can behave this way because they are immune from lawsuits.

In my state a cop put a bag on a kids head and he suffocated to death. HE'S DEAD!!! The kid even told the cop he couldn't breathe and the cop argued with him. You know how much time the cop got. NONE!!!! He wasn't trained properly was his excuse.

That kid actually died and your appalled that some kids could have died. YOur an idiot.

October 29, 2007 3:10 PM  
Blogger Brett said...


Thankfully you prove my point with your own stupidity (What you no doubt meant to say was "you're an idiot" rather than "Your an idiot" but why let simple grammar rules learned in grade school get in the way of an illogical attack on someone?). But I'll go on anyway.
Just because you can point out things that are more dangerous than alcohol (like guns, duh) doesn't in any way prove that alcohol can't also be dangerous, particularly in the wrong hands. It just means that there are other dangerous things which, again, duh. I'm quite confident that Mr. DeLoria would not condone the shooting of innocent people nor the suffocating of a kids. But just because you can think of worse crimes doesn't mean we should let slide all others. Surely murder is worse than assault but does that make a prosecutor wrong to charge someone with assault? Of course not. Yet that seems to be precisely your "logic" for lack of a better term. It seems to me there is room to enforce all the laws and it's not as if Mr. Camblos was ignoring more serious crimes in order to prosecute this one (indeed the office was prosecuting a capital murder case at the same time as these events).
If you want to disagree with the Robinsons being charged or with the severity of the sentence, fine. Reasonable people could disagree. But then your argument is with the laws passed by the legislature not with the actions of a prosecutor enforcing them.

November 7, 2007 6:19 PM  
Blogger rhec said...

Yes your[sic] right, when it comes to writing "your" instead of "you're" in a blaaauuuuugggghhh[sic] I am an idiot.
But the fact remains that no one was actually hurt. No one actually died. In fact, did anyone even drink any of the poisonous alcohol? And if alcohol is so poisonous why is it sold in the first place? Were you aware of the fact that grapes ferment into alcohol? Damn grapes!!! Dangerous!! As a young man there were two occasions when I almost died working on a farm, in fact, farming is the most dangerous job for young people and yet there is no cry to end it. Why? Should the law be so arbitrary? If we are interested in protecting children then protect them. But that is all cognitive dissonance; an excuse judges and prosecutors use to justify their ridiculous behavior.

And we aren't talking about the difference between assault and murder are we? Both of those involve direct bodily harm. This is a witch hunt. Many people think witch craft is dangerous, poisons young people's minds. Should we now through them in jail.

I am not sure if you are aware of this but the point of the executive branch is to enforce the laws. In words, they get to choose what laws to enforce. Blaming the legislature is just one idiot passing the buck to another.

November 8, 2007 2:20 PM  

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