February 7, 2013

Jury 'hopelessly deadlocked,' Falmouth party parents settle case

Barry and Paula Spencer will pay restitution, do 100 hours of community service and write a letter of apology.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The trial of two parents from Falmouth who were charged with letting teenagers drink at their home during a party that made headlines in June ended Thursday with the jury "hopelessly deadlocked."

click image to enlarge

Barry and Paula Spencer hug with joy after hearing the jury was deadlocked with the verdict resulting in a mistrial. The district attorney, Stephanie Anderson, said she will not bring up the charges again. They signed legal papers to that fact and the Spencers are free of all charges.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Barry and Paula Spencer talk to the press outside the Cumberland County Courthouse after their trial on charges of providing a place for underaged drinking ended in a deadlocked jury.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Attorneys for Barry and Paula Spencer reached an agreement afterward with Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson to avert another trial.

Under the agreement, each of the Spencers will pay restitution, do 100 hours of community service and write a letter of apology.

The Spencers each faced seven counts of allowing minors to possess or consume alcohol at a party they hosted at their home on Fieldstone Lane on June 16, after their son's baseball team won the high school Class B state championship.

The party got out of control as it grew, with Falmouth High School's championship lacrosse team and students from out of town joining in.

The trial, which began Monday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court, highlighted the issues of underage drinking and parents' responsibility.

Anderson, the county's top prosecutor, took on the case and argued during the trial that the Spencers knew minors were drinking in their backyard and basement and did nothing to stop it. Police said they found empty beer cans and alcohol bottles around the Spencers' yard when they broke up the party.

The Spencers' attorneys, William Childs and Walter McKee, argued that Barry Spencer told police he was concerned that teenagers were trying to sneak alcohol onto his property, and he stood guard in the driveway to search people coming to and going from the party.

The 12-person jury split evenly, with six members wanting to acquit and six wanting to convict, after more than seven hours of deliberation.

The jury told Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz in a note Wednesday night that it possibly was deadlocked. The jurors came no closer to agreeing after resuming deliberations Thursday morning.

"I think it's fair to say, myself and all the attorneys agree, that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked and appears hung," Moskowitz said Thursday afternoon.

Under the agreement, the Spencers each waived their right to another trial, and the state will drop the misdemeanor charges against them.

Each one must do 100 hours of community service, write a letter of 250 words or more to be published in the Falmouth Forecaster, pay $6,000 in restitution to several groups, and pay $2,500 to the Victim's Compensation Fund.

"I'm very pleased. It was a reasonable outcome," said Paula Spencer.

Her husband agreed, but said he would leave most of his public statements for his letter.

Childs said the agreement acknowledges that the Spencers could have handled the party better, but declares to the community that they did not commit a crime.

"It was just one of those cases that had to be tried," he said.

McKee said that what happened to the Spencers could have happened to anyone.

"The jury couldn't reach a verdict," he said. "I think that says a lot. It really wasn't criminal conduct here."

Anderson said she felt that justice was served by the agreement. She said the issue of underage drinking has been an important cause for her for a long time.

"There were a lot of really bad things that could have happened" as some of the teenagers got very intoxicated at the party, she said, and it was lucky that no one got seriously hurt.

Anderson called the case a "snapshot of public opinion."

"I think it's an issue that people feel really passionate about. I think the result that came out of this was a good result," she said. "If you talk to people in the public, they are very divided about this."

Judge Moskowitz said he was pleased with the outcome and "extraordinarily impressed" with the way the attorneys presented their cases.

"I believe that is part of the reason why the jury has had such a hard time," he said.

According to the signed agreement, prosecutors will dismiss all of the charges against the Spencers on Aug. 10 if they comply with all the terms of the agreement.

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

sdolan@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Barry and Paula Spencer thank their attorneys after their trial ended with a deadlocked jury on Thursday.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

  


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