An editorial in the May 1 Tomahawk Leader:
We just don’t get it!
What is the message?
What is the deterrent?
Three teens supplied alcohol at an underage drinking party that took place last year in the town of Bradley. Unfortunately, there’s probably nothing unusual about that.
Another teen – a foreign exchange student attending Merrill High School – died at that party, however. That’s a tragedy that cannot be undone. That’s the ultimate warning we give our community’s children when we tell them underage drinking is dangerous. That’s the message emergency personnel try desperately to portray during the annual mock accidents they hold just before prom and graduation. That’s a parent’s worst nightmare.
Initially, the teens were tabbed with individual felony charges of procuring alcohol for a minor resulting in death. That meant the potential of 10 years in prison, a $25,000 fine, or both.
We don’t know these young men and no one knows what potential they hold. Certainly a felony on their record would limit their futures. We’re not advocating that they be saddled with a felony. Perhaps they do deserve a second chance.
But, the news of the probable plea agreement in this case has us shaking our heads in disbelief. District Attorney Don Dunphy is proposing that the prosecution be deferred a year. In the meantime, the teenagers must refrain from consuming alcohol or being on any premises with alcohol, do 100 hours of community service and identify the others who brought and provided alcohol at the party.
If they meet ALL the requirements of the plea bargain, their charges will be reduced to procuring alcohol for an underage person, which carries, get this, a $500 forfeiture!
Dunphy is quoted in the Wausau paper as saying it’s his hope the conditions will act as a deterrent for their peers.
And what deterrent is that, exactly?
What is the lesson?
That breaking the law – that ultimately leads to the worse case scenario, death – can be paid for in less than two and a half weeks at a minimum wage job?
Perhaps, we concede, the foreign exchange student was most at fault for his own actions.
Perhaps, there will be repercussions for these young men when they tell who else provided the alcohol, from others friends to the adult(s) responsible for buying the booze. But one would think that should have happened already and not be part of a bribe-like bargain.
Perhaps a couple of weekends of community service look pretty threatening.
Perhaps avoiding alcohol will be real tough for them this coming year, despite the fact that it is already against the law.
Yes, the punishment is tough. But at least we can rest easier knowing these young men will have learned a lesson.
And, we can be certain the conditions they must meet will help deter future underage parties!