Jail time proposed in Md. for parents hosting teen drinking parties

WASHINGTON — Paul Li knows the anguish of losing a young son.

On Wednesday, he took that anguish to Annapolis to tell lawmakers they need to help create a change in the attitude that says it’s OK for teenagers to attend parties where alcohol is served.

Li’s 18-year-old son Calvin was one of two teenagers killed in a crash in June — a crash that took place after the Wootton High graduates attended a party where a parent allowed alcohol to be served. That parent, Kenneth Saltzman, paid a $5,000 fine: $2,500 for each citation.

Li wants lawmakers to enact a bill that would add possible jail time for anyone found guilty of hosting underage drinking parties. Before testifying in Annapolis on Wednesday, he sat in a lunch room down the hall from the House Judiciary committee. He spoke quietly, but firmly about parents who hold gatherings where kids are allowed to drink openly.

“They say they’re going to provide a safe place for kids to drink. It doesn’t work. Lives are lost, dreams are dashed.”

David Murk sat by Li’s side, nodding as Li spoke. Murk’s son Alex was the other teenager killed in that June 25 crash.

The two parents say they made it clear to their teenage boys that they wouldn’t allow underage drinking in their homes. Both Murk and Li say they were stunned to find that other parents would permit it. What’s been especially distressing, Murk says, is that since the crash that took their son’s lives, other parents in the community have continued to host parties where kids are served alcohol.

“That was probably the most appalling and difficult thing for us to get our arms around and grasp after Alex’s death,” Murk said.

Wednesday, a Senate committee heard testimony on the bill — “Alex and Calvin’s Bill” — that would add the penalty of possible jail time — up to one year for the first offense, two years for the second offense — for the crime of hosting a party where underage drinking takes place.

After the emotional testimony, the committee took the unusual step of voting on the measure; it got a favorable vote, meaning it moves forward.

Later Wednesday, Li and Murk — and Murk’s wife Pamela — testified on a companion bill before a House committee. Pamela Murk begged lawmakers to adopt the tougher penalties in the bill.

“I have no other way to show you my pain. I don’t have any scars right now. I don’t have any stitches. But there’s a very black hole in my heart, and I miss Alex every day,” she said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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