The trove of embarrassing details about a December teen drinking party involving Cobb parents in high places has led to a refiling of charges and the resignation of an assistant solicitor who allowed baseball practice to qualify as community service. (See earlier blog on this issue and the larger question of the treatment of middle-class kids and athletes by the courts.)
I suspect more fallout will come from this case, which seems fraught with poor judgments by people who should know better, including state Sen. John Wiles. The party took place at the Marietta home of Diane Busch, an attorney at Wiles’ firm and a magistrate judge.
After police arrived at the party at 3 a.m. in response to neighbors’ complaints, Wiles showed up to pick up his son. The police report states that Wiles asked officers not to give a citation to one teen because his baseball scholarship could be yanked. While Wiles says he spoke only as a concerned parent, the report says that he told police he was a state senator. The students at the party attended the same private school as the senator’s son.
Wiles issued a statement this week saying, “I was not present when the alleged underaged drinking took place; I was called there after the fact. I did not attempt in any way to use my position as a state legislator to influence the police at the scene. I was there as a father picking up his son, and as an attorney who had a co-worker facing a difficult situation.”
The outrage over the case led Cobb Solictor Barry Morgan to also issue a statement in which he said, “While I acknowledge that this case was not handled to the standard I set for the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office, as head of this agency I accept responsibility for it. I have already begun to revise and distribute policies, train employees in better negotiation technique and am working to partner younger lawyers with more experienced lawyers to ensure we don’t repeat the experience and results of this case. ”
Morgan’s statement acknowledged that “baseball practice should never be a substitute for community service, as band practice would not be sufficient community service.’”
According to an excerpt from the AJC story:
Cobb County soolicitor Barry Morgan has refilled charges against a 19-year-old accused of drinking at the home of a magistrate who also was his lawyer. And the assistant solicitor who agreed to let William Maxwell count baseball practice as his community service has resigned, Morgan said.
Morgan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that he refilled the minor in possession of alcohol charges Wednesday, two weeks after the charge was withdrawn as part of a plea agreement.
Morgan said Maxwell did not meet the criteria to enter a diversion program, especially one that allowed him to satisfy 40 hours of community service by practicing with his Rice University baseball team for 150 hours. Also, Maxwell’s blood-alcohol content was .171, more than twice the .08 BAC that is the maximum allowed to participate in a diversion program, Morgan said.
“He doesn’t meet the eligibility of our diversion program, so there will be another resolution [to the case],” Morgan said.
While these adults were trying to protect the offending teens, they have made it worse for them. Wiles complained of the media attention, but his role has contributed to the news reports.