, Salem, MA

Local News

September 28, 2013

Middleton parents found not guilty after underage party


Police had initially charged the parents with furnishing the alcohol, but a previous judge dismissed the charge after being told that the girls admitted one of them brought the vodka.

On Thursday, Clifford and Rogers opted for a bench trial, which is a trial before a judge, instead of a jury. Layne said the decision to waive a jury was based on the concern that jurors would be unable to focus on the legal definition of wanton and reckless conduct.

During the trial, prosecutor Heidi Sylvanowicz called eight witnesses, including the girl who was hospitalized and her mother, some of the other party guests, and two police officers.

The couple, while cleared of criminal charges, could still be subject to a civil lawsuit from the family of the girl who was hospitalized.

On the night of the incident, the mother of that girl sent a text message and photo of her daughter, in a hospital bed with a tube inserted into her throat, that read, “Thank you for almost killing my daughter. Tell your parents I will see them in court.”

The case bears some similarities to that of a Beverly woman, Tiffany Clark, who was sentenced to serve six months in jail last year after she was found guilty of furnishing alcohol to minors during a Halloween party in 2010. A girl at that party also ended up in the hospital after consuming “Jell-O shots” made with vodka.

Prosecutors had alleged that Clark purchased the vodka and helped her daughter make the shots the night before the party; Clark and her daughter denied buying alcohol, and Clark testified that she had no idea that her daughter was putting alcohol in the Jell-O cups.

But photos from the party showed Clark smoking and texting as teens continued to drink, and she admitted that she, too, started drinking during the party.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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