Adults indicted after furnishing alcohol to minors

Adults indicted after furnishing alcohol to minors by David Lias Four Vermillion citizens will appear at a Clay County court hearing Aug. 29 after being indicted by a local grand jury Aug. 10 on charges stemming from a July 4 party that served alcohol to minors.

The party was held at the home of Terry and Joan Nelson of Vermillion.

Both of the Nelsons have been indicted with one count of maintaining a common nuisance and 15 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor child, according to Clay County State's Attorney Tami Bern.

"Those are all Class 1 misdemeanors," she said.

Mike Mortensen of Vermillion has been charged with three counts of furnishing alcohol to a child, 10 counts of furnishing alcohol to individuals between the ages of 18 and 21, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a child.

The maximum fine for a Class 2 misdemeanor is a $200 fine and a 30 day jail sentence. Furnishing alcohol to a child also carries with it a mandatory driver's license revocation of from 30 days to one year.

The grand jury also indicted Tom Knutson of Vermillion with one count of furnishing alcohol to a child, five counts of furnishing alcohol to individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a child.

The process in handling these cases, Bern said, is the meeting of the grand jury which heard evidence and then deliberated and determined if it was going to return any indictments.

The indictments were returned to Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rusch Aug. 11.

"Arrest warrants were issued and their first court appearance is Tuesday, Aug. 29," Bern said. "At a first (court) appearance, a person is advised of the charges against him or her, and the maximum penalty. At that time one can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty."

Bern said it's rare that in circumstances like these, in which an individual is charged with mutual counts, that a person would enter a plea.

It is more likely that the defendants will ask, through their attorney, to continue the process to another hearing.

There is no minimum sentence for a Class 1 misdemeanor. The defendants face a maximum sentence of a year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine for each count.

"Maintaining a common nuisance is defined as keeping or maintaining a place where alcohol laws are violated," Bern said. "The contributing to the delinquency of a child is defined as doing any act which causes, encourages or contributes to the delinquency of a child, and a delinquent child is defined as one who violates the law."

Bern said the investigation and ensuing court action that followed has focused on the adults who served the alcohol, and not the underaged individuals who participated at the party.

"We haven't charged any kids and basically we were more concerned with charging the adults," she added.

Bern said that 28 juveniles were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.

The Clay County Sheriff's Department received telephone calls complaining of the party on July 6, and launched an investigation.

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