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Judge orders no jail time for retired trooper who served alcohol to minors at party where teen drowned

Police said retired State Police captain James F. Coughlin was attacked outside the courthouse by supporters of the victim after a judge gave him a one-year suspended sentence.

Retired State Police captain James Couglin and his wife, Leslie, left Dedham District Court after a hearing in 2021.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Retired State Police captain James F. Coughlin, 57, and his wife, Leslie Coughlin, 56, pleaded guilty Monday in Dedham District Court to providing minors with alcohol and were each given a one-year suspended sentence, over the objections of prosecutors.

The suspended sentence means neither will serve jail time and resolves charges brought two years ago in connection with the June 2021 death of 17-year-old Alonzo J. Polk IV, who drowned in a pool at the couple’s Dedham home during a high school graduation party.

According to his attorney, Coughlin was leaving the courthouse Monday morning after the hearing when he was attacked by several people who had been inside the courtroom.


“Mr. Coughlin was brutally attacked from behind and beaten in the middle of the street in front of the courthouse,” said Coughlin’s attorney, Brian T. Kelly, who described a “wild melee” in which several people began kicking and hitting Coughlin, as well as another retired trooper who tried to intervene.

“It’s totally crazy that something like this would happen in the middle of Dedham after a court proceeding,” Kelly said. “We hope the [district attorney]’s office will bring the appropriate charges and not permit our criminal justice system to be replaced by mob justice.”

Dedham police came to the scene of the attack and “intervened to stop the altercation and restore order,” according to a statement from the department. The statement did not specify how many people were involved or the extent of the violence, but it said no one was hospitalized.

“Two individuals were evaluated on scene and refused transport for any further evaluation,” the statement said.

Dedham police declined to say whether any arrests had been made since Monday morning. Members of Polk’s family could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Coughlins were originally charged in September 2021 with providing alcohol to a minor and reckless endangerment of a child after Polk’s body was pulled from their pool at a high school graduation party three months earlier. According to the police report from early that morning, officers arrived at the Coughlins’ home and noticed “several obviously intoxicated high school age individuals as well as many empty beer cans.”


Police identified four teenagers by name who told investigators “they were permitted to consume alcohol on the premises,” according to police. The police report added that the Coughlins “would have reasonably known that many of the guests were not of age to consume alcohol.” Police also said they reviewed photographs taken during the party, “including one that depicts the 17-year-old drowning victim sitting at a table with several empty alcohol containers in front of him.”

Roshawn Drane, Polk’s brother, told reporters at the arraignment in 2021 that he couldn’t fathom why the Coughlins were not facing any immediate consequences; the couple was released from court without bail.

“My brother is no longer here,” Drane said. “He’s no longer walking this earth, but for these people to walk out of this courtroom ... is beyond us.”

At the time, Kelly asserted medical records showed Polk had no alcohol in his system at the time of his death and that he had been pushed into the Coughlins’ pool by a friend.

In court Monday, Kelly argued that the drowning “was a terrible accident, not a crime,” he said.


Assistant District Attorney Sean Riley asked Dedham District Court Judge Paul McCallum to sentence the Coughlins each to a year in the Norfolk County jail and three years’ probation, with 200 hours of community service. However, McCallum agreed to the Coughlins’ plea for 50 hours of community service and a 1-year sentence, which neither defendant will have to serve if they are not charged in any crimes over the next three years.

The defendants did not plead guilty to the second charge of reckless endangerment but admitted that there were sufficient facts to be found guilty. The judge continued that charge without a finding, meaning it also will be dismissed after three years if they do not violate the law.

Ivy Scott can be reached at Follow her @itsivyscott. Shelley Murphy can be reached at Follow her @shelleymurph.