Sour 16

You think Paris Hilton got a tough deal? A Virginia mother and stepfather will serve 27 months in jail for serving liquor to minors at their son’s 16th birthday party in 2002.

Ryan (Kenty) had asked his mother to buy his friends some beer and wine, as long as they all spent the night.

“No one left the party,” said (mother Elisa) Kelly, 42, who collected car keys that night almost five years ago to prevent anyone from leaving. “No one was hurt. No one drove anywhere. I really don’t think I deserve to go to jail for this long.”

The prosecutor initially asked for 90 days; the judge sentenced the mother and stepfather to eight years, which was knocked down to 27 months apiece. Ryan dropped out of high school when the case became notorious and now works as a UPS driver.

More than two years behind bars for serving liquor to keyless teen-agers? That’s crazy.

About Joanne


  1. Independent George says:

    I despise the drinking laws, and think two years is excessive, but they were clearly in the wrong here. They didn’t just serve alcohol to their own kids (which I have no problem with); they served to other kids, and lied to the other parents about it. That’s just plain irresponsible.

  2. Ragnarok says:

    Wrong isn’t the issue here.

    A quick read of the story indicates that the parents took reasonable precautions. Further, a substantial number of the kids had no alcohol in their systems, and those who did were below the legal limit.

    So I think this is a case of an ambitious politician (the prosecutor) plus an idiot judge.

    Sound bites (“Zero tolerance” etc) are easier than measured thinking, isn’t it?

  3. Spirit of the Law vs. Letter of the Law is a lost art in 2007.

  4. superdestroyer says:

    If one reads the article, it says “they tried to get the kids to cover it up after police got there.” That sounds like obstruction of justice doesn’t it. The parents knew what they were doing was wrong and tried very hard to hide what they were doing.

    My guess is that the parents were heavy drinkers and associate all social activites with heavy drinking. That set up rules so that they could drink with the kids.

  5. Miller Smith says:

    They instructed children to lie to the police. They did this behind the other parent’s backs. Giving alcohol to children is a common modality of child molestors–being the “cool” parents on the block that is…

    What else have they been doing?

  6. This seems like another case where the justice system is being abused by someone with a pathological need to inflict pain. Camblos knows that a good way to get people to vote is by identifying an evil, and working everyone into a frenzy over it. Certainly underage drinking is a problem, but it’s also a reality, and Mr. Camblos’ actions are not likely to stop 16-year-olds from drinking. Camblos will just make it more likely that they’ll drive somewhere to get their alcohol.

  7. Ragnarok says:

    Miller Smith said:

    “Giving alcohol to children is a common modality of child molestors”

    Just to be clear, are you implying that these parents were child molesters? That’s a serious charge, so if you have any evidence to back it up it would be good to point to it.

    If not, please say so.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I think 90 days was adequate. Prison time ruins the family for good.

  9. Kirk Parker says:

    Independent George,

    It’s not just you that has no problem with parents giving their own kids alcohol, it’s actually quite legal in many places (Washington State, where I reside, included.)

  10. I’d consider the source of every scrap of information. As I recall there was a fairly recent case in which an ambitious prosecutor tried to railroad three young men into jail to further his own political aspirations.

    Turns out the prosecutor didn’t have a lick of evidence to back up his charges but that didn’t keep him from trying the case in the media with “evidence” of his own choosing if not manufacture.

    I won’t even try to guess how common that sort of misconduct is in the justice system but there’ve been enough such incidents that all public information about a crime is suspect.

  11. Twill00 says:

    1)Giving your own children alcohol is in a different class from giving alcohol to other minors without their parents’ permission.

    2) The parents must have known it was illegal or they wouldn’t have told the children to lie to police.

    3) Serving alcohol ($340 worth) at a 16th birthday party is clearly irresponsible, but the parents seemed to have made attempts to be responsible in their irresponsibility, as it were.

    Note that this is $340 for 30 16-year olds, what, three six-packs each?

    4) Clearly, something at the party caused neighbors to call in the police. This incident isn’t covered in the article, so we can’t determine to what degree the liquored-up minors were out of control.

  12. She bought alcohol for kids who were 15. She expected them to drink it. She lied to the guests’ parents, and to police, and she encouraged children to lie to their parents and to the police. She lied to parents who had called to inquire about whether alcohol would be served!

    Other than that, alcohol is a commonly used drug, but it isn’t harmless. She was lucky none of the kids had untreated diabetes. She was also lucky the police broke up the party before the night was over. Were any of the guests female? Was anyone raped or molested? Were any of the guests on medicines which would preclude drinking? She probably didn’t ask, but that’s o.k., because she’s not a doctor or anything. She’s just a mom who wanted to please her children.

    Collecting car keys may signal the desire that no one drives, but it doesn’t rule out a guest possessing a back up set. Yes, teens do drink. And, every year, teens die from the consequences of drinking, whether from driving under the influence, or from the effects of alcohol. If you go to Liz Ditz’s site, take a look at her category, “Kid drug abuse.” ( The list of kids who die is far too long.

  13. Okay, encouraging the kids to lie to their parents and police is clearly wrong. Is it obstruction of justice? No, from a legal stand point it is more akin to conspiracy or criminal soliciation. Has anyone given thought that this is the part of the indicident that infuriated the judge to lead to such a sentence?

    What is interesting to me is a different angle. Let’s us assume the parents didn’t buy the alcohol and weren’t present at their son’s birthdya, but alcohol nevertheless made its way to the party. Had any one of those kids gotten hurt at that chaperone-less party, these parents would have been sued for every dollar they have or plan to make in their lives.

    Enterprising young souls can acquire beer if they work at it a little. From a parental standpoint, I am glad that these parents stayed home to supervise and monitor the drinking. I don’t think they should be punished for this act. I do think they deserve some jail time for encouraging minors to lie to their parents and police.

  14. Ragnarok says:

    JuliaK said:

    “Collecting car keys may signal the desire that no one drives, but it doesn’t rule out a guest possessing a back up set.”

    Right, and how do we know one of the kids wasn’t an expert at hot-wiring cars? How do we know one of the kids wasn’t prone to life-threatening seizures? Etc.

    How many of us have lied to the cops when stopped for speeding? “Really, officer, was I doing 75? I’m shocked, officer, shocked, I tell you!”

    Let’s not make more out of this than we need to.

  15. I agree that 90 days would have been appropriate. Two years is just plain nuts.

    If other parents didn’t know there would be alcohol at the party, then civil suits are appropriate.

  16. Ragnarok says:

    In case anybody still thinks that a judge can be presumed to be rational…

    “WASHINGTON, June 12 — Roy L. Pearson Jr. wanted to dress sharply for his new job as an administrative law judge here. So when his neighborhood dry cleaner misplaced a pair of expensive pants he had planned to wear his first week on the bench, Judge Pearson was annoyed.

    So annoyed that he sued — for $67.3 million.”

  17. SuperSub says:

    Thats the problem with our current legal system, that is has become rational to sue for millions over a lost pair of pants.

  18. Cardinal Fang says:

    I think the sentence is exactly right. I can’t express how furious I’d be if it were my child who had been at that party. I’d have been lied to, alcohol would have been served to my child against my wishes, my child would have been coaxed to lie to the police. As another poster pointed out, $340 buys a lot of alcohol for 30 kids. They weren’t planning on just sipping.