Cheathams get maximum fine on each of four counts
CHARLESTON -- A Sikeston couple charged with multiple counts of supplying alcohol to minors pled guilty to charges of failing to stop minors from consuming alcohol on their premises during a Wednesday court appearance in Charleston.
Mark Cheatham, 49, and his wife, Terry Brewer-Cheatham, 47, were previously charged with 30 counts each of supplying alcohol to minors at a graduation party they held at their home in Sikeston on May 20, 2007. Sikeston Department of Public Safety officers responded to the Cheatham home in reference to a loud noise complaint.
"The defendants admitted they violated the law by pleading guilty to four counts of the information," said Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd.
Stephen Wilson, attorney for the Cheathams, said the crime is called supplying to a minor, but there is a different portion of the statute that makes permitting the consumption of alcohol by minors a separate offense.
"You can break the law by giving a beer to those under 21 or by failing to stop them from drinking alcohol in your home," Wilson said.
The couple's plea was negotiated, Wilson said.
"There was a significant difference of opinion between us and the prosecution about the process of what the police said and what the kids said," Wilson said. "Charges were dismissed against all of these kids because there was an absence of evidence."
Associate Circuit Judge T. Lynn Brown imposed the maximum fine, which was $500 on each of the four counts for each defendant, or $4,000 plus court costs. The couple have 60 days to the pay fine.
Sgt. Jim McMillen, public information officer for Sikeston Department of Public Safety, said officers hope this case sends a message to both teens and parents who may consider such a gathering.
"Regardless of the occasion, teens consuming alcohol is illegal," McMillen said. "Anyone who engages in an activity such as this is committing a crime. Not only should you think about the criminal violation but you should also consider the civil liability that may arise."
Wilson said his client, Mark Cheatham, wanted to clarify statements he made to Sikeston Department of Public Safety officers the night of the party.
"He didn't say he would do the same thing over at any cost," Wilson said. "Both of their (Mark Cheatham and Terry Brewer-Cheatham) opinion is they were doing this because a good many of these kids were going to do it somewhere anyway. If the kids do it, let them do it somewhere safely."
Wilson continued: "They understand it's wrong, and they shouldn't have done it. Yes, it's wrong but their motives weren't bad motives. They were trying to protect these kids."
But McMillen has a different opinion.
"We are in the business of ensuring the safety of everyone in our community," McMillen said. "Thankfully, no one was killed or injured as a result of this party. Anyone who hosts parties such as this is not looking out for the best interest of our teens. It is simply irresponsible."