BEVERLY - In a strong message to adults tempted to host parties for underage drinkers, a Salem judge has sentenced a Beverly woman to six months in prison for permitting teenage drinking at her home two years ago.
It was believed to be the first time a person was sent to jail under the state’s social host law when a fatality was not involved.
Tiffany Clark, 37, of Manor Road, was taken into custody Thursday immediately upon her sentencing, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.
Clark will serve her time at MCI-Framingham, a prison that holds female inmates.
Upon her release, she will have to serve an additional six months of home confinement.
Police were called twice to the 2010 party at Clark’s house, after getting complaints about noise and underage drinking. A friend of Clark’s daughter, then 16, was taken to the hospital and treated for alcohol poisoning, Monahan said.
Prosecutors had recommended that Clark serve 11 months in jail, based on the facts of the case, Monahan said. Clark was convicted of providing alcohol to the teenagers and allowing them to drink the beverages at her home.
“The idea that a person would allow somebody else’s child to consume alcohol - we see that as an egregious act,’’ she said. “Thankfully no one died.’’
Clark’s defense attorney, Eitan Goldberg, said the sentence imposed by Salem District Court Judge Robert A. Brennan was unusual.
“In my research, I did not find a social host case where jail time was imposed where there had not been a death,’’ he said. “And many cases where there was a death, jail was not imposed.’’
Monahan could not recall another case in which an adult was jailed for furnishing alcohol to minors, unless there was a fatality involved.
Clark’s mother, in an interview Friday, called the sentence “very harsh.’’
“I think it has harsh ramifications for her children,’’ said Linda Clark, referring to her daughter’s children, ages 17 and 9. “It changes her whole life.’’
Blodgett, in a statement, said that the case “sends a clear message to adults who think they can control a gathering of underage drinkers or that by providing young people with a place to drink that they are keeping them safe.’’
“With prom and graduation season upon us,’’ he said, it bears repeating that there is no such thing as a safe underage drinking party.’’
One of Clark’s neighbors, Adel Alshraf, recalled the police responding to the party at Clark’s home, saying that “kids were running around everywhere.’’
“When stuff happens like that, I close my door, because I don’t want my kids involved,’’ he said.
Another neighbor, Darlene Scarsilloni, said Clark’s children always appeared well dressed and happy and that Clark had seemed like a good mother.
“I never thought of her as a bad person,’’ she said. “She made a bad mistake.’’
During Clark’s trial, the teenager who was hospitalized testified that she had told people at the party: “I need to go to the hospital. I can’t breathe. I can’t see.’’
Clark allegedly told her she was fine and to “just sleep it off,’’ Monahan said.
Teenage alcohol parties - sometimes permitted by adults to keep underage drinkers from driving - can result in alcohol poisoning deaths and sexual assaults, said Monahan.
“Drunken driving is not the only thing that can go wrong,’’ she said.
The drinking age in Massachusetts is 21.
Goldberg, Clark’s lawyer, said the sentence was too severe, and he pointed out that Clark had no prior criminal record.
“Ms. Clark ought to have been given probation, with a period of house arrest, but jail time was not necessary,’’ Goldberg said. “She is a good person with a strong support network of family and friends. She had one night in her life where she made some bad decisions. She knows she made mistakes, and she has learned from them.’’
Clark is also required to submit to substance-abuse and mental health evaluations. In addition, she must pay $100 restitution to the teenager who was hospitalized.
Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said Friday evening that he would have to search records to determine if there have been similar sentences in other jurisdictions, but he defended the sentence as appropriate.
“The law is there to prevent this type of activity,’’ he said. “It’s one thing to say the girl taken away in an ambulance didn’t die, but what if she did? What would you say to her parents?’’
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