MIDDLETON — A Middleton couple has been found not guilty of child endangerment charges that were filed after a 14-year-old girl attending a New Year’s Eve party in their home was hospitalized for acute intoxication.
Salem District Court Judge Emily Karstetter found on Thursday that the couple, Mark Clifford and Paula Rogers, had been negligent but not reckless during the Dec. 31, 2011, party. Her verdict came following a four-hour trial.
Clifford, 56, and Rogers, 42, of 176 Lake St., were upstairs with their younger children while their teenage daughter hosted a party downstairs for a group of her friends, ranging in age from 14 to 17.
Shortly before 11 p.m., a then-14-year-old Saugus girl at the party began vomiting and then became unconscious. She was later taken to Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Several other girls at the party also tested positive for alcohol.
But Clifford and Rogers, who took the stand in their own defense, insisted that Rogers had checked on the teens every 15 minutes and had no idea they were drinking.
“They were watching their kids as best they could,” said Lance Layne, who represented Clifford.
The teens, several of whom were charged with being minors in possession of alcohol, told police they had sneaked in vodka in a water bottle and then spiked the punch bowl.
Police, in their report, noted that officers found a vodka bottle, along with a 32-ounce beer bottle. The bottles were never collected as evidence, however, and were not introduced during the trial.
Police also learned from interviews with the teens that the girl had been sick, vomiting in a bathroom, for about 15 minutes before passing out. The teens told police they were afraid to call for help because they didn’t want to get in trouble, but eventually did so after the girl lost consciousness.