An editorial in the May 20, 2008, Tomahawk Leader:
A recent Lincoln County Circuit Court proceeding has us questioning the outcome.
In October of 2006, several Merrill High School students attended an underage drinking party in the town of Bradley. One of the students was a foreign exchange student from France. After a night of drinking, he tragically died from alcohol poisoning and a rare neurological disorder. Three young men who were found to have brought the alcohol to the party were each charged with felonies of procuring alcohol for a minor resulting in death.
According to public records, these youths had no real brushes with the law prior to the party. The district attorney offered each teen a plea agreement that placed them on a deferred prosecution, which they accepted and a judge approved. This meant the felony criminal charge would be reduced to a fine of providing alcohol to an underage person, if the teens followed orders to not consume alcohol, be in taverns, undergo drug and alcohol counseling and put in community service time, among other stipulations.
Recently, after a year of apparently following the rules of the plea agreement, the felony charges were put aside and each of the three teens was ordered to pay a $753 fine and costs for a civil charge of providing alcohol to a minor.
It is the opinion of one versus the other on how severely these youth should have been punished. Some readers probably feel the book should have been thrown at them, while others may think this is just kids being kids.
However, we are led to question why one of the teens was cleared of the felony charge when, in fact, he did not follow the stipulations of the plea agreement. According to Wisconsin court records, this teen was caught and convicted of first offense operating while intoxicated. He also had a few additional brushes with the law. He was convicted of resisting an officer and operating with a suspended license several times, for example.
We did not want to see these three young men become convicted felons before they even left high school. And we support giving second chances in our justice system, especially to youth. However, it is difficult to understand why this teen was not ordered to additional counseling or a longer probationary period to assure he is not a threat to the public.
Was justice served?