Topsham police charge 25 with underage drinking at New Year’s party

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TOPSHAM — Police broke up a party in the early morning hours on New Year’s Day and issued summonses for underage drinking to 25 people between the ages of 15 and 20.

Police said Sagadahoc County dispatch received an anonymous electronic tip about the party at 12:08 a.m. Jan. 1. Sgt. Robert Ramsay and Officers Mathew Bowers and Garrett Decker were dispatched to 89 West Merrill Road.

A 17-year-old boy who lives at the home allegedly hosted the gathering, police said. The teenager’s parents were gone for the night and unaware of the party, and do not face any charges, Police Chief Chris Lewis said Tuesday.

“(The teenager was) in charge of the house, so he’s the one who gets charged,” Lewis said.

The boy was issued a summons on a charge of furnishing a place for minors to consume or possess liquor, and police issued other summonses on charges of illegal possession of liquor by a minor.

So many people were charged, police said, that they set up an area in the kitchen at 12:45 a.m. to process summonses and have the youths call their parents. Officers left the scene around 3 a.m.

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Some of the youths had fled out the back door into the woods, but returned to the house because of the subzero temperatures, Lewis added.

“It wouldn’t (have taken) long before someone could have been gravely injured,” he said, adding it was fortunate no one was hurt as a result of the party.

Lewis warned those thinking of hosting a party with underage people drinking that they are responsible for anything that goes wrong.

“God forbid one of these teenagers was operating a vehicle under the influence and hurt themselves or hurt others, the homeowners’ insurance is going to be responsible for that,” the chief said. “… It’s just not a very smart or healthy decision to make, in this day and age.”

Noting that some of the participants were just months away from turning the legal age of 21, he said, “now you’re going to have to deal with an alcohol violation. There’s a reason why there’s a legal drinking age.”

Stressing the unintended consequences of hosting an underage party, Lewis said, “I don’t know how many times we tell teenagers … that it doesn’t take but one incident before someone can change your lives and make the wrong decision.”

The ramifications for some may include their lives in school. Some students who participate in athletics at Mt. Ararat High School will possibly face suspensions because of their participation in the party, Principal Donna Brunette said Tuesday. She did not disclose how many may be involved.

Student athletes and their parents sign a form that calls for adherence to academic standards, as well as policies that govern use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs or other illegal substances. The form notes that failure to abide by the rules can lead to suspension from activities.

Athletics, due to their interscholastic nature, are governed by Maine Principals Association guidelines, so particpants are held to a higher level of expectation than those participating in non-athletic activities, Brunette said.

“Certainly anything that happens within the school environment would impact any student,” she noted. “Those issues that happen outside in the community are managed differently for MPA interscholastic activities than they are for typical clubs and so forth that exist within the school structure.”

“I’m not saying whether I agree with that or not,” Brunette added. “But that is the current situation.”

Since there can be different impacts on different students depending on their participation in school activities, some youths “feel the pinch” more than others, she said.

“Others … may need to deal with the criminal justice system, but they’re not necessarily impacted in the school environment,” Brunette said.

“Obviously we want our students making good decisions when participating in underage drinking situations,” she said. “They put themselves at risk in a number of ways, particularly if students are providing for other students. … A lot of times kids think ‘we’re the same age, what’s the big deal,’ and the reality is, it’s a pretty significant offense to provide to a minor, even if you are a minor.”

The people charged with illegal possession of liquor by a minor are Trevor Mayo, 20, of Garden Drive; a 16-year-old Brunswick girl; a 17-year-old Durham girl; Alexander Halliday, 20, of Apple Grove Road; Carter Babcock, 18, Butler Road, Boothbay; Jordan Jawdat, 18, Topsham Crossing; Nikolas Canter, 18, Douglas Street, Brunswick; Christian Chappetta, 18, West Road, Bowdoin; Aiden Snell, 18, Newell Brook Road, Durham; Ethan Minchin, 18, Augusta Road; Jacob O’Neill, 19, Bayview Road, Orr’s Island; Kimberly Marston, 19, Tower Circle, Bath; Kasey Harrison, 20, Antietam Street, Brunswick; Sara Putnam, 19, Garden Drive; Kaitlyn Witwicki, 18, Bay Park Drive; Emily Welch, 18, Lewis Hill Road; Paige Szygiel, 19, Milford, Connecticut, and a 17-year-old Bowdoin boy.

“I think this was the most charges we’ve had at one location in a very long time,” Lewis said. “… We were fortunate to have three officers on duty, to be able to process and handle the amount of people and the amount of violations that were occurring at the residence.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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