By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
July 31, 2015
RALEIGH – Perhaps you have seen the commercials.
A mother puts jewelry and a corsage on her “princess;” her teenaged daughter. You think the girl is going to a school dance, but the camera moves to a wider shot and you see that the child is in a casket. The mother bursts into tears.
The other one shows a dad talking to his son about bundling him up before going outside. He’s mashing a banana for his boy. As he approaches him you see that he’s not talking to a toddler, but a teenager who has obviously been debilitated by a brain injury.
The tagline for both ads is “It’s never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol.” The 30-second ads are produced by “Talk It Out NC,” the North Carolina ABC Commission’s initiative to reduce underage drinking.
These powerful ads were developed in 2014 to raise awareness about the problem of underage drinking and encourage parents to speak with their children openly, honestly, and more often with their children.
See former Christian Action League story: North Carolina ABC Commission to launch Media Campaign Promoting the North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking
With this emphasis in the state on underage drinking, it is especially disheartening to hear of two recent tragic accidents involving alcohol use by young people and the involvement of adults in obtaining it.
Last year, 18-year-old Jonathan Taylor died in an automobile accident after leaving a wedding reception at the home of. Dr. Charles Joseph Matthews and his wife, Kimberly, where alcohol was served. Several young people were seen drinking. According to WRAL, a wedding photographer saw underage young people drinking throughout the night. He said that he attempted to talk to them but they were so inebriated that they were hard to understand. Another wedding guest testified that he confronted Taylor. “I blatantly asked him, ‘What are you on?'” Taylor replied that he was drunk and stoned. Taylor’s body was not tested for controlled substances. The guest had suggested he get a ride home and not drive.
The Matthews were charged but have been acquitted of four counts each of aiding and abetting the consumption of alcohol by minors.
The defense had argued the bartenders at the party should have checked the IDs of the young people before serving them. Also, the Matthews’ underage son had bought liquor at a local ABC store and brought it to the party. He was charged with underage purchase of alcohol and has been sentenced to 18 months of probation. He had pleaded guilty, but was awaiting sentencing after the trial of his parents. The ABC store employee has been cited for selling alcohol to an underage person.
In North Carolina, it is illegal for minors to drink alcohol at private parties, even with permission from the parents. Officials at the NC Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) said any adult can be criminally charged if they allow a minor to consume alcohol or reasonably should have known that underage drinking was occurring in their home.
The Matthews had tried to get the charges dismissed, saying they were wrongly targeted instead of the bartenders or the ABC store employee who sold alcohol to their son.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said, “Underage drinking is a very serious problem in our community that leads to the deaths of many promising young people. Until we stand together as a community against parents who have a kids-will-be-kids attitude, we will continue to lose promising young adults way too soon.”
In recent weeks, a tragic accident took the lives of two women and a 6-year-old child. A 9-year-old was also severely injured.
On July 19, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill junior Chandler Michael Kania, 20, was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and I-40 in Orange County. His Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris. Harris, 49, of Charlotte, was killed along with Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris’ granddaughter Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Harris’ daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was injured.
Kania has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. He is recuperating from injuries and is under house arrest until his trial.
Before the accident, Kania had attended a party and then used a fake ID to obtain alcohol at two Chapel Hill bars. He used the ID of a roomate to drink at “He’s Not Here,” and “La Residence.” ALE agents said that Kania’s roomate told them that Kania drank regularly at “La Residence” and had used the fake ID for a month at least. At “He’s Not Here,” the manager reported that the bartenders did not check Kania’s ID but it was checked at the door.
As he attempted to leave, several friends tried to prevent Kania from getting in his car, but he fought with them and left.
District Judge Charles Anderson wants a plan in place to get Kania into an alcohol treatment facility. Upset by the tragedy of the event, Anderson said, “It begs the question, what are we doing wrong in this world? College campuses all over the state and the country are not preparing our most privileged, intelligent and entitled children how to handle alcohol? Where does it start? Where does it end?”
Dr. Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League said, “It is tragic and frustrating that at a time when North Carolina has taken steps to address the issue of underage drinking that these kind of horrible incidents continue to occur, enabled by adults who should be the gate-keepers of the illegal use of alcohol, not facilitators.”