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Woman Sentenced to 21 Years on Charges Related to Teen's Drinking Death

27-May-2016

Most people know that there are laws against furnishing alcohol to minors and that there are "social host laws" which allow a person to be prosecuted for allowing minors to drink on one's property. In general, furnishing alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of up to $500. Most people charged with a first offense of this type would not see anywhere close to a year in jail, and often, would not serve any jail time at all.

However, the consequences of allowing minors to drink on one's property can be much more serious, as one Cleveland County woman has discovered.

Just over a year ago, in March 2015, Tonya Lynn Moss, 33, allowed her son to have friends over for a bonfire at her home while she and her boyfriend spent the evening at a casino. According to reports, Moss knew from prior experience that her minor son and his friends would drink while at these bonfire parties, yet she allowed them to continue unsupervised.

On that fateful night, though, one of the teens at the party, a 15-year-old boy from Lexington, literally drank himself to death.

Moss and her boyfriend arrived back at home from the casino at approximately 6:00 a.m., where they found the teen unresponsive. According to Moss, she tried to revive the boy with CPR for several minutes before she and her boyfriend, Justin Moore, panicked and fled, leaving the teens to call 9-1-1 and explain what had happened to their friend.

The woman had reason to panic--she was on probation for a drug possession crime and not allowed to drink as part of her probation; she had possession of a firearm, which she was not allowed to possess as part of her probation; and she knowingly allowed underage drinking on her property.

However, prosecutors said that her fear of prosecution should not have outweighed the life of a teen. As a result of the boy's death, Moss was charged with several crimes:

  • Allowing invitees under 21 to possess or consume alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance
  • Child neglect
  • Possession of a firearm during probation

Moss pleaded no contest to all three criminal counts. Additionally, the judge accelerated sentencing on the deferred sentences she received for drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving under suspension.

Cleveland County District Judge Tracy Schumacher said at sentencing that she believed the woman was truly sorry for her actions, but could not understand why an adult would run away and leave an unresponsive teen behind. Schumacher called Moss's actions "absurd," "selfish," and "irresponsible," and likened the act to manslaughter.

She sentenced Moss to 21 years in prison: one year for the gun possession charge, five years for allowing underage drinking, and 15 years for child neglect. Moss is also sentenced to 4 years for the drug charges which were previously deferred.


 



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