CONYERS -- A man acting as chaperone at a house party where teens ended up drunk will spend the next year in jail. And it should be an early warning to anyone who hosts New Year's Eve parties this year, according to the judge.
Rockdale County Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation sentenced 45-year-old Kevin Darryl Cronin of McDonough Thursday afternoon to 12 months to serve in the Rockdale County Jail. Cronin pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the December 2009 incident.
The state contended that Cronin knowingly allowed juveniles to drink alcohol during a New Year's Eve party last year in south Rockdale. Cronin acted as chaperone for a party hosted by a then-16-year-old boy, who is the son of Cronin's friend. Cronin chaperoned as a favor to his friend, who was in Mexico on a business trip.
"Had this case gone to trial, the state would have expected at least seven attendees of the party to testify that the consumption of alcohol was clearly conspicuous," Assistant District Attorney Dabney Kentner said, describing a game of beer pong and alcohol shots that were both going on during the estimated three-hour party in the home's basement with some 30 kids.
"Throughout this time, the defendant, Kevin Cronin, repeatedly came downstairs ... that he was consuming alcohol himself during the time, that he was talking with the children, interacting with the children and was clearly aware that they were drinking," Kentner said.
The state said Cronin denied knowing about the alcohol, saying the kids "just got one past him."
In addition to the charge in the plea, Cronin originally faced two felony charges -- sexual battery and enticing a child for indecent purposes -- when authorities reported Cronin undressed a drunk 15-year-old girl and put the naked girl in a bathtub in the house's master bedroom. The victim's friends told authorities that Cronin was shirtless when he answered the bedroom door. The victim's parents called authorities about the incident the next day.
The state dropped those charges.
"The difficulty, emotionally, of proceeding in trial and bringing in so many of (the victim's) contemporaries is what motivated the state -- not a lack of evidence -- to proceed as we have done," Kentner said.
Public defender Mark Hinds argued that the intoxicated girl vomited all over her clothes and Cronin tried to clean the girl up before her parents picked her up from the party.
Hinds pointed to a fight Cronin had to break up and said the entire situation got out of hand. Hinds said Cronin did not know the children were drinking, but Hinds admitted that Cronin perhaps should have known.
"So Mr. Cronin is guilty of not thinking the way most people would think," Hinds said. "It got totally out of hand."
Cronin testified that the children came through a side door of the house and snuck in vodka in water bottles.
It bothered the judge how Cronin "wound up in an upstairs locked bedroom with a drunk naked 14-year-old girl."
Cronin got "the break of a lifetime," Nation said, pointing to the two dropped felony charges and the fact that all three charges carried up to a 15-year prison sentence.
Cronin could be released in six months under a 2-for-1 jail time credit that gives offenders two days credit for every 1 day in jail.
"He's looking at one misdemeanor out of this fiasco," Nation said. "You're talking about six months in jail in what could have been a very, very, very bad case. I'm just glad none of these kids got seriously hurt."
Nation brought up other cases where teens are injured or killed from driving drunk and no one wants to take responsibility.
The judge said he was concerned about children's safety and anyone who improperly supervises them is going to jail.
"I'm not going to pat him on the hand and say 'Go home and take some probation,' and be done with it because that won't deter a single person from doing it this coming Jan. 1," Nation said.