News & Press
MADD won’t accept $5,000 donation from mother charged in social-host case/ Poll
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Source: Providence Journal
WARWICK, R.I. — The North Kingstown police reached a deal Tuesday to drop a charge that a local mother violated the state’s social-host law by allowing teenagers to drink at her daughter’s 16th birthday party in exchange for her contributing $5,000 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
But MADD, whose mission is to stop drunken driving and prevent underage drinking, wants nothing to do with the money, according to Gabrielle Abbate, executive director of MADD in Rhode Island. The organization will not accept the contribution.
“The sentence sends the wrong message about the dangers of providing alcohol to those who are underage,” Abbate said. The law needs to be enforced to its full extent and should apply to everyone regardless of their financial situation, she said.
Under a plea agreement reached before Judge Frank J. Cenerini in Kent County District Court, the police agreed on Tuesday to dismiss misdemeanor charges against Jayne Donegan accusing her of violating the social-host law by allowing underage drinking at her 251 Wilbert Way home and of assaulting a police officer.
In addition, Donegan entered a not guilty filing to a charge that she obstructed a police officer who responded to her home. A not guilty filing means the charge will be dismissed if Donegan is not arrested in the coming year.
Donegan’s lawyer, William P. Devereaux, said his client learned from the experience, namely how fast word spread about the party, spurring uninvited, older guests who drove cars to descend on her home. Her daughter’s invited guests did not have their drivers’ licenses, he said.
“It was a situation where there was never any evidence that she procured alcohol or allowed alcohol to be consumed in her house,” Devereaux said. “She has not admitted to anything.”
Reached Tuesday night, Devereaux said that Cenerini mandated the plea agreement.
If MADD chooses to reject the money, “that’s entirely up to them. The contribution was made in good faith by Ms. Donegan.”
He said he would meet with the town prosecutor about other possible recipients.
The police went to Donegan’s house Jan. 25 after they received a complaint about teens drinking alcohol and running through the neighborhood and urinating in people’s yards, according to a police report.
When the first officer arrived, he saw a “swarm of kids” running from the house and spoke with a boy and a girl outside who admitted that they had been drinking, the police report said.
The police report states that Donegan initially refused to let police in, saying that she was an attorney who knew her rights and that they did not have a search warrant. Donegan’s LinkedIn page lists her job as Textron’s senior associate general counsel.
The police said they advised her that they had reason to believe that there was underage drinking on the property and that they also needed to check on the well-being of juveniles.
The police said that while Donegan was calling 911 to have the officer removed from her house, he checked the basement where there was loud music, black lights, glow sticks and bottles of alcohol scattered about, as well as a “beer pong table” for the drinking game. The police say that two minors were taken to a hospital for intoxication and that another minor received a summons for marijuana possession.
Officials have said that the party, which was reportedly a 16th birthday party for Donegan’s daughter, was attended almost exclusively by East Greenwich teenagers.
North Kingstown Police Chief Thomas Mulligan said Tuesday that he believed the disposition was appropriate given that Donegan had a clean record prior to the incident. Donegan did not get preferential treatment, he said.
Mulligan was not aware of MADD’s position and could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Those accused of violating the social-host law face a misdemeanor charge. First offenders who plead no contest or are convicted face $350 to $1,000 in fines, up to six months in prison, or both.