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Thursday, August 5,2004

Busted teen drinking party nets arrest for probation violator, others

By Athens NEWS Staff
A young Albany man, recently convicted of underage drinking at a teen alcohol party in January that led to a fatal car crash, has been sued in Athens County Common Pleas Court for a 2002 car accident,...

A young Albany man, recently convicted of underage drinking at a teen alcohol party in January that led to a fatal car crash, has been sued in Athens County Common Pleas Court for a 2002 car accident, when he would have been 16.
Meanwhile, a second young man from Athens, who also took part in underage drinking at the January party, has been found guilty of breaking his probation by drinking alcohol at another party with at least 14 other teens early July 28 in Alexander Township.
Ben Roberts, 18, who was arrested later on a warrant, was found allegedly very intoxicated at the party at a Bates Road residence. He spent four days in jail before going to court Monday. He now has been placed under house arrest at his family's home, with Athens County Prosecutor C. David Warren vowing to put him in jail if he's ever found drinking with juveniles again.
""The next time we catch him even watching a Budweiser commercial with a juvenile, we're going to lock him up,"" Warren promised.
The January party, which took place at a remote cabin in Waterloo Township, was the prelude to a fatal crash that killed two girls who had attended, 16-year-old Maggie Tabler of Albany and 14-year-old Olivia Sole of Athens.
The two left the party in a car driven by another 16-year-old, Jana Miller of Albany. Miller, who authorities allege was intoxicated, crashed the vehicle, which caused the deaths of her two friends.
Both Roberts and Peter B. Kerber of Albany, who were 17 at the time, were found delinquent by reason of underage drinking at the party, and both were fined and placed on probation.
Now Kerber has been named, along with his father, in a lawsuit filed in Athens County Common Pleas Court by a Gallia County woman.
Wanda Thevenir of Bidwell, Ohio, claims that Kerber was driving a car owned by his father on Aug. 5, 2002, when he caused injury to her. The suit does not provide details of how this occurred. Thevenir has asked for at least $25,000 in damages.
Thevenir's attorney Andrew Mollica said to his knowledge the accident was a rear-end collision, with no indication that alcohol was involved.
In the unrelated case, Roberts was arrested at a party at a home on Bates Road the morning of July 28, in his underwear and allegedly almost too drunk to stand.
The party was at the home of a 15-year-old girl, whose parents were reportedly out of town at the time.
Roberts was one of 15 people officers say were at the party. After approaching the house, the officers say they caught a ""highly intoxicated"" 16-year-old girl trying to run away. A man in his underwear, later identified as Roberts, came out the front door, according to the report, and ""could barely walk on his own.""
Deputies entered the house, because according to officer Jack Taylor, they had the Miller case in mind, and wanted to make sure that none of the young people inside needed medical attention, given the condition of Roberts and the girl.
The 15-year-old resident first asked officers for a warrant, and then allegedly claimed not to have been aware of the party going on. Officers located three partiers locked in a downstairs bathroom, and two more on the roof of the dwelling.
Most of the juvenile partiers were turned over to their parents. Those whose parents were not available were allowed to stay at the residence under the supervision of an Athens woman.
Roberts was in Athens County Juvenile Court Monday, where Magistrate Jon Perrin found he had violated his probation terms. Perrin sentenced him to 100 hours of public service, and to house arrest at his home with a curfew.
Because his probation stemmed from a juvenile case, it remains under the authority of the juvenile justice system despite his age, but because he is 18, he was taken to the regional jail in Nelsonville after his arrest Friday.
According to Prosecutor Warren, the juvenile system will have authority over Roberts in the case until he is 21. This means he can be re-jailed if he violates his probation terms again.
""That's the beauty of it,"" Warren said. ""We can still lock him up for a few more years.""
Warren promised that this is indeed what may happen to Roberts if he doesn't stay away from alcohol, especially in the company of people under 18.
""He has a substance-abuse problem, and we're going to correct that by putting him somewhere that he can't get substances,"" Warren said.
Jana Miller, who was the driver in the fatal crash after the January party, pled no contest last month to two counts of delinquency by aggravated vehicular homicide. She was put in juvenile detention for about six weeks, fined, ordered to perform community service, and had her driver's license suspended.


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