Portland trial: Did Falmouth parents allow teenagers to drink?

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PORTLAND — Were a Falmouth couple complicit in allowing minors to drink at their home during a party last June, or did they prevent teenagers from drinking before the party spiralled out of control?

That is the question before a Cumberland County Unified Criminal Docket jury of nine women and five men (including two alternates), in a trial that began Monday morning in Portland.

Barry and Paula Spencer, of 35 Fieldstone Lane, Falmouth, each face nine Class D counts of allowing a minor to possess or consume liquor stemming from a party last June 16 for the Falmouth High School baseball and lacrosse teams. The Spencers’ son played on the baseball team.

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson told jurors that Barry Spencer, 53, and Paula Spencer, 52, opened their home to teens who were drinking inside and outside the house, and who fled into surrounding woods when police arrived just before midnight.

Anderson said the trial was expected to last about two days, and the state would call several teens who attended the party to bolster the argument the Spencers willingly allowed drinking by minors.

“Did Mr. and Mrs. Spencer allow what was going on here?” is the question for jurors, Anderson said. She cautioned them they would hear conflicting stories about what happened, but the overall testimony would show the Spencers were guilty as charged.

The Spencers assured police the party was alcohol-free, but a traffic stop made after a visit to the house by Falmouth Police Sgt. George Savidge established a minor who was a passenger in the vehicle had been drinking and was at the party.

Walter McKee, who represents Barry Spencer, and William Childs, who is defending Paula Spencer, said their clients told party-goers there would be no drinking, and confiscated alcohol they found before party crashers later sneaked in.

McKee told jurors Anderson left key elements out of her opening arguments. He said testimony from witnesses, including Savidge, Falmouth Police Department officers Lucas Hallett and Dennis Ryder, and teens at the party, will show the Spencers were as vigilant as possible under the circumstances.

Barry Spencer stood in his driveway, checking backpacks and warning teens there would be no drinking, asked for police assistance, and let officers onto the property as the party got out of control, McKee said.

“A little party can become a big, big, big party,” McKee told jurors.

Paula McKee was in the back yard at the party, and twice called neighbors for help as more and more people showed up before police arrived.

What was intended as a cookout for the Falmouth High School state champion baseball team expanded to include the champions from the boys lacrosse team, and then grew out of control when people began sneaking in, Childs said.

“The party was infiltrated,” he said.

Savidge was the first witness questioned Monday by Anderson. He said he first came to the Spencer home around 10:30 p.m. on June 16, 2012, in response to anonymous tips there was underage drinking.

Savidge said he talked to Barry Spencer for about 15 minutes, but saw no reason for further investigation.

“He was very open, told me it was alcohol-free,” Savidge said. “It was clear he was positioned to monitor comings and goings.”

Savidge said he offered to alert Hallett and Ryder about the party because Spencer did express worry the party could get out of hand. The officers were to pass by occasionally to check on anyone driving away from the home.

He described a different scene when he returned about 90 minutes later to assist Hallett and Ryder when they broke up the party. One teenager was seen out front yelling and swearing at Hallett, and another was passed out beyond the Spencer’s back yard, Savidge said.

Nine teens ranging from 15 to 18 years old were named in the indictments against the Spencers and police said dozens of beer cans were found. Savidge said it took three hours to process the scene and clear the party.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.