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Alcohol cases dismissed for 19 area teenagers

Monday, August 28, 2006

Nineteen Storm Lake area teenagers were cleared of charges of alcohol possession in court this week, while six others agreed to plead guilty to frequenting a disorderly house - nearly bringing to an end a controversial case that started with a going-away party for a young Storm Lake man last November at the home of former assistant county attorney Dave Patton.

All of the students charged with the exception of James Patton had their charges dropped. His case was taken under advisement and is to be decided by a judge later.

Parents of many of the young people involved attended, with several attorneys representing various teens who had attended the party, a come-and-go send off for Patton's son, who was entering military service.

A charge against Dave Patton was dismissed earlier after he had testified that he was not aware that any of the young people present in the home had alcohol.

County Attorney Phil Havens said after the court date that his office is basically finished with the situation.

"It's good to have it over with, for everyone, I think," he said.

The six students who did plead guilty to city citations on frequenting a disorderly house will receive deferred sentences and one year of probation. If they do not violate conditions of the probation, their records will then be cleared. The fine is $50 each.

For some of the families involved, the point of the case has nothing to do with charges or fines.

"A lot of kids got affected negatively," said the father of one of the teenagers charged. "People were saying that enough is enough - the methods of operations have to change. We are not arguing with the law at all here, but it isn't right to run into the high school and start shaking students down, or calling the college they attend. If the law is broken, there is a process to address it, but in this case we felt the investigation was a problem."

Dave Patton, who was fired from his county attorney staff position after the charges were announced, plans to opposed incumbent Havens for county attorney in the general election. He testified in Thursday's case, along with a police detective and a few students for whom charges had already been dropped earlier.

"I think the students were petrified, but they did a good job," one of the parents said of the case. "It was all handled calmly, and when the attorneys went out and met with the judge, and came back for the decision to be announced, it was over without any fanfare."



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