TEEN DRINKING CASE
Mother, Stepfather Report to Jail
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A Virginia mother and stepfather began serving 27-month sentences yesterday for serving alcohol to minors at a 16th birthday party for their son nearly five years ago.
Their appeals exhausted, Elisa Kelly, 42, and George Robinson, 52, now divorced, reported separately to Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. They pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor stemming from the backyard party for their son Ryan Kenty, now 20.
"Everybody was crying," said Kenty, who with his brother, Brandon, 16, a sophomore in high school, dropped his mother off at the jail. "The three of us hugged for a long time, and then they took her away."
Afterward, the two brothers cleared out their mother's rented apartment and closed her utility accounts, Kenty said.
Kelly and Robinson hosted the party at their Earlysville home, in the hills outside Charlottesville, in August 2002. Kenty had asked his mother to buy beer and wine for his friends, with the understanding that they would stay the night. Court records show that Kelly spent $340.
Kelly said she collected car keys to make sure that no one left the party. She reasoned that the youths were going to drink regardless, and she wanted to keep them off the road.
Police went to the home after receiving calls about underage drinking. About 30 young people, ages 12 to 18, were there when police arrived, scattering into the woods when someone yelled, "Cops!"
"Nobody got hurt. Nobody drove anywhere. How many times can I say I'm sorry, that I made a mistake?" Kelly said before reporting to jail. "This is just too harsh."
Kelly and Robinson were initially charged with 16 misdemeanor counts, but the charges were reduced to nine. Some of the partygoers had no measurable alcohol in their systems.
Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney James L. Camblos III recommended 90-day sentences, but the judge sentenced them to eight years. The judge was angry about the recent death of one of Ryan Kenty's classmates at Albemarle High School in an alcohol-related crash after a party.
Kelly and Robinson appealed to Circuit Court, which reduced the sentences to 27 months. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld that decision in January, rejecting defense claims of an illegal search of the family's property. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Kelly and her sons spent her last weekend of freedom hanging out, talking, watching movies and going out to eat, she said. They stayed up Saturday night and watched the sunrise Sunday after going for breakfast at a waffle house.
"We needed to talk about all the things they have to do for me while I'm in jail, all the paperwork," said Kelly, a stay-at-home mother. The brothers will live nearby with their father, Marc Kenty.
Kelly said she is praying she will get out before the end of her sentence. "Jesus won't let me miss my baby's last year of high school," she said, choking back tears. "I just know He won't."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.