BENNINGTON -- A local judge told a 21-year-old man Friday that he was his own worst punishment for his role in supplying the alcohol at his best friend's last party.
Trevor Murray, of Union Street, will serve no jail time for a felony and two misdemeanors he pleaded guilty to in July, having been charged with hosting an underage drinking party on Mount Anthony Road in September of last year at which Randy Blair Jr., 19, was present. According to police, Blair drove away from the party after having a scuffle with another partygoer only to crash his vehicle within earshot of the gathering and suffer fatal injuries.
The state and Murray, through his attorney David Silver, had agreed in July that sentence on the felony, enabling alcohol consumption by a minor with a fatality resulting, would carry a five-year deferred sentence, meaning it gets stricken from Murray's record should he not violate his probation conditions for that five-year period. A contested hearing was planned for Friday, but an agreement was reached on the remaining possession of a malt beverage, and false information to police charges, which resulted in suspended sentences of zero to 30 days and zero to three months respectively.
Murray will have to perform 100 hours of community service in the form of giving talks to various groups about the perils of hosting underage alcohol parties. He must also be employed 36 hours per week, or enrolled full-time in school, otherwise he must do four hours of community service a week on top of the 100 total.
State's Attorney Erica Marthage said while Murray made some poor decisions after the crash, his emotional state was something she considered. She said Murray using his community service time to share his experience with others is better than jail time in his case.
According to police, Murray attempted to move Blair's truck after the crash. He also claimed the other partygoers had left the party prior to Blair leaving, which was not the case.
Murray moved the truck with the notion of taking Blair to the hospital, according to Silver, who noted that his client owned up to his own part in supplying alcohol to the party. Silver said it was only in regards to others Murray was less than forthcoming with police. Silver said per statements made by others at the party to police, it appears that his client physically tried to pull Blair from his vehicle to prevent him from leaving the party, and that Blair may have been drinking prior to his arrival.
The party was at a camp owned by Murray's family, Silver said, and that it was Murray's 20th birthday. The plan had been for people who were drinking to sleep over, but things got out of control.
Gail Stickle, Blair's sister, told the court she feels more people should have been held accountable and that Murray has more information he is not revealing.
Blair's stepmother, Patricia Blair, wrote a letter to the court which was read aloud by Victim Advocate Tammy Loveland. Patricia Blair was not present in the court. She encouraged a jail sentence, saying others would get the impression that only a "slap on the wrist" awaited them if they hosted an underage drinking party.
"I just want to say I am deeply sorry for my conduct," Murray said. "Randy was obviously one of my best friends, and not a day goes by I don't think about him."
"You are your own worst punishment," said Judge Nancy Corsones.
She said jail is a punishment first and a deterrent second, and that Murray would punish himself mentally in jail the same as he would doing community service. She said jail sentences have been given to young people in Murray's situation before, and Murray himself is evidence that those sentences did nothing to stop others.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.