Mills conducts hearings on alcohol law

By ERIC SLAGLE Daily News Staff Writer Schools out, and courts in session. Magisterial District Judge Beth Mills held a day of special hearings in her Forward To w n s h i p c o u r t r o o m Wednesday for juveniles and young adults accused of breaking drinking laws and related violations during the past several months. The hearings, which were scheduled for this week because, until now, the majority of the defendants had been attending school, offered a lot of reasons for young people to think twice about drinking. Many of the defendants were ordered to take part in community service and alcohol awareness classes. They were told to write an essay on ways the court can better reduce drinking in the community. Plus, they are required to make a second appearance before the judge later this summer to make sure they followed through with court orders. But just being in court was punishment enough for at least some of the participants. The waiting room of the court office was filled to overflowing much of the day with defendants and their parents � there were 35 juveniles and eight adults on the docket� waiting for their cases to be heard. If crowded conditions and heat weren�t enough, two fathers who apparently had unsettled differences involving their children got into an altercation in the parking lot of the court office that ended with one of the unidentified dads being taken away in handcuffs by Forward Township police. Officials at the scene said the arrest occurred after the man pushed an Elizabeth Township police officer who intervened in the altercation. Forward Township police could not be reached for additional information about that situation, but Elizabeth Township police Chief Robert McNeilly, who arrived shortly after the incident, said, �There�s a lot of heated emotions.� One mother, who saw the fight but asked not to be identified, said police and the legal system were �bullying these kids and bullying these families.� A youth who witnessed the incident in the parking lot said he didn�t want



to talk to police about the matter because doing so might mean another day in court. Inside the courtroom, some defendants tried to argue their innocence, telling the judge they only drank a small amount of alcohol. One young woman told the judge shed only had one drink before police arrested her and her friends after a traffic stop. Mills said it didn't matter:  If you are under 21 in the state of Pennsylvania, you can have zero drinks. It was a message she repeated numerous times to underage drinkers. Mills had a different message for Richard Hanus, 52, and Todd Hanus, 20, both of Elizabeth Township . They each were charged with 17 criminal counts that include disorderly conduct, underage drinking, furnishing alcohol to minors, corruption of minors and criminal conspiracy, stemming from a police raid on a party that occurred on their property March 15 that involved underage drinking. The judge told the men they need to get lawyers. She continued their case so that they can hire legal representation, telling them the stakes are too high to defend themselves. If convicted of all 17 counts, the judge said men could face 22 years in prison. Another noteworthy case heard briefly Wednesday involved student drinking at Elizabeth Forward High Schools winter formal dance in December. Zachary Lepley, 18, of Elizabeth Township , pleaded guilty to consumption and disorderly conduct on Wednesday, but four other suspectsLori Ann Smith, 37, Jarold Miller, 23, Jamie Tyron, 22, and Derek Sleith, 18, all of Forward Township arrested last month in that incident had their cases continued. One other adult, Michael Ward Jr., 19, of Elizabeth Township , pleaded guilty to three counts of disorderly conduct and underage drinking Wednesday. His charges stemmed from a March 21 arrest in Elizabeth. Jodie Sobehart of the Underage Drinking Education Program registered about a dozen young people for an alcohol education class that will be conducted at a local church later this summer. She said the eight-hour program helps many offenders. I feel confident in the program that it gets kids on the right path, Sobehart said.  If they don't successfully complete the program under our guidelines, then they fail the class and the results get sent back to the judge.

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