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Seven plead guilty in FSU drinking death

November 02, 1997

By DAVID DISHNEAU

The Associated Press

CUMBERLAND, Md. - Seven former and current Frostburg State University students were convicted Friday of selling alcohol without a license to a freshman who drank himself to death at a fraternity party.

Prosecutors, however, dropped the more serious charges of manslaughter and reckless endangerment as part of a plea agreement.

Allegany County Circuit Judge J. Frederick Sharer gave each defendant a 90-day suspended jail sentence. He also sentenced each to five years probation, and ordered each to pay a $1,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.

Sharer said he was convinced the state could not have proven the men were directly responsible for the death of John E. Stinner, 20, of Glassport, Pa. Stinner was found dead in his dormitory room last Nov. 9 with a .34 percent blood alcohol level, more than three times the level at which someone is considered to be legally intoxicated.

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Defendant John Lewis, 22, of Williamsport told the court and Stinner's mother he wanted to fulfill his community service by talking to high school students, including those in Stinner's home town, about the dangers of alcohol. Mrs. Stinner said she would like that.

``I think that's a community service, to make kids aware it can happen to them because I'm sure every kid says, `That won't happen to me,''' Mrs. Stinner said.

State's Attorney Lawrence Kelly said Stinner consumed at least six beers and 12 shots of vodka over a two-hour period at the off-campus Kappa Beta Zeta party. KBZ, also known as KZX, was one of several loose-knit, unsanctioned fraternities that routinely hold parties attended by hundreds of Frostburg students on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

``This is not an isolated incident; this is business as usual,'' Kelly said. ``My position is that we should, to the extent we can, deter that activity.''

Drinking is common among Frostburg students, as at other U.S. colleges.

A survey conducted by the school's counseling office in April found that about 60 percent of Frostburg students drink at least once a week, and 17 percent routinely binge on alcohol by having five or more drinks at a sitting.

Alcohol poisoning kills about one American 24 years old or younger each day, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Also convicted Friday were Christopher M. Dodson, 24, of Ellicott City; Frank A. Edmond, 24, of Meyersdale, Pa.; Eric G. Hallenbeck, 25, of Hagerstown; Matthew L. Janulewicz, 23, of Ocean City; Jason H. Sutherland, 24, of Lothian; and David A. White, 23, of Baltimore.

An eighth defendant, Carl T. Bennett, 25, of Frostburg, has reached an identical agreement and will appear in court Monday, Kelly said.

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