Archive for Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Charge dropped for Baldwin City woman accused of hosting minors consuming alcohol

January 22, 2014

A judge has dismissed a charge against a Baldwin City woman accused of hosting minors consuming alcohol, citing wording of the statute in question.

Sherry L. Haskell had been scheduled for trial this week in Douglas County District Court. Instead, during a hearing Tuesday, Judge Sally Pokorny stood by her decision to dismiss the case despite a motion by the state to reconsider.

The charge stems from a June 2013 incident at Haskell’s home in the 800 block of East 1750 Road. Mary Armstrong, of Baldwin City, told the the Signal's sister publication, the Lawrence Journal-World, last year that her then-17-year-old son was badly burned in a bonfire at the party, where minors were drinking.

Haskell’s attorney, Adam Hall, spoke on her behalf during the hearing. Haskell declined to be interviewed. She works as head cook at Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, according to the school district website.

In the Kansas statute for unlawfully hosting minors consuming alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage, a misdemeanor, the word at issue is “invitee” — which Pokorny said legally means, essentially, a guest invited to conduct business on the premises.

“Invitee has a very specific legal meaning, and it doesn’t mean a social guest,” Pokorny said, adding that evidence in Haskell’s case indicated the incident was a social gathering.

Assistant District Attorney Eve Kemple had argued that the offense meant recklessly allowing minors to consume alcohol and that the issue of invitees was “a matter of semantics.”

If the statute used a term such as “the person who was invited,” Pokorny said her decision probably would have been different. However, she said, her job is to interpret what lawmakers wrote, not second-guess what they meant.

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