Columbus attorney Steve Wallace was charged Monday night with the Sale of Beer without a Permit, Possession of Alcoholic Beverages with Intent to Sell without a Permit, and 10 counts of violation of the Social Host Law. A party attended by approximately 200 people was held at Wallace's home in Caledonia. Photo by: Courtesy photo
April 3, 2012 1:38:02 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Editor's note: The charges against Stephen Wallace were subsequently dropped.
A local attorney, who also is a former district attorney candidate, was charged with the sale of beer without a permit, possession of alcoholic beverages with the intent to sell without a permit and 10 counts of violation of the Social Host law, after an early Sunday morning raid on his Caledonia home.
Agents of the Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and deputies of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department conducted the investigation at the home of Steve Wallace, 60, of 600 Aldridge Road in Caledonia, about 2:30 a.m., following a party held after the Caledonia High School prom.
Wallace denied sanctioning the party.
"Well, I didn't get arrested," he said, this morning. "My child threw a party and I didn't know anything about it. I showed up and tried to stop it, and the police showed up. That's about it."
ABC Enforcement received tips from "numerous citizens" prior to the party and were told a $10 cover charge would allow someone to attend the party and obtain liquor and beer.
An undercover ABC agent was able to purchase a wrist band for $10 at the party and got liquor and beer from Colt Wallace, 18, the son of Steve Wallace, reported Mississippi Department of Revenue officials, noting about 200 people attended the party, at which numerous bottles of liquor, as well as two kegs of beer, were seized.
The following three were charged and taken to the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center:
Travis Blanton, 18, of 250 Winters Cove in Columbus, was charged with possession of beer by a minor and disorderly conduct.
Ethan Sims, 18 of 443 Mt. Vernon Road in Columbus, was charged with possession of beer by a minor and Steely Watson, 18, of 349 Molly Lane in Columbus, was charged with possession of beer by a minor.
Additionally, Justin Hauerwas, 19, of 720 Wolfe Road in Caledonia, was charged with possession of beer by a minor; Marandia Koening, 19, of 100 Burton Drive in Caledonia, was charged with possession of beer by a minor; Austin Mordecai, 18, of 2144 Crews Road in Sulligent, Ala., was charged with possession of beer by a minor and Michael Varner, 19, of 39 Ruby Lane in Columbus, was charged with possession of beer by a minor.
Two juvenile males, age 17, and one juvenile female, age 17, were charged with possession of beer by a minor. The three unnamed juveniles were charged and released to their parents. The ABC does not release identifying information for minors less than 18 years old.
Several other juveniles, who were drinking, but not in possession of alcohol at the time of the raid, were detained and released to their parents.
A student, who attended the party and asked to not be identified, said the party was a well-publicized event.
"I don't attend school in Caledonia and I knew about the party for about two weeks before Saturday night," she said. "I wasn't drinking; I was a designated driver. The only people that paid the $10 were people that were drinking. I didn't have to pay the cover charge and get a wristband because I wasn't drinking."
The student said once law enforcement arrived, several of the attendees fled to a wooded area near Wallace's home.
"I know there were some kids doing drugs and smoking marijuana, and they ran to the woods when the police showed up so they wouldn't get caught," she said. "A lot of the kids ran to hide in the woods. Those of us left in the house were divided into two rooms. The people that were drinking had to sit on the floor in one room, and those of us who weren't drinking had to sit on the floor in another room. They lectured us on underage drinking and drinking and driving. They gave me and the other designated drivers sobriety tests before we could leave."
The student said there were "large amounts of alcohol" at the party, but she denied seeing Steve Wallace.
"I never saw (Steve Wallace) the entire night," she said. "I was told that he was out of town. This was just an after-prom party that got out of hand."
Caledonia High School Principal Randy Barnett said the school has no comment on the after-prom party and charges.
"The prom is not a school-sponsored event and has not been so for years," Barnett said Tuesday. "(Caledonia High School) has nothing to say about this incident."
An investigation into the event continues.
Adam Kilgore, general council for the Mississippi Bar Association, said Wallace would have to have a compliant filed against him, before any type of punishment would be considered.
"I can not say whether or not a complaint has been filed against (Mr. Wallace)," Kilgore said. "There are two ways a complaint can be filed: One is by an individual, attorney or judge. The other is if an attorney is found guilty of a felony or certain misdemeanors. But someone could be disbarred for being found guilty of engaging in criminal activity."
Steve Wallace's initial appearance in Lowndes County Justice Court is Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Enacted by the Mississippi Legislature in 2011, the Social Host law stipulates misdemeanor charges may be filed against anyone who owns or leases a private residence or private premises and knowingly allows a party to take place or continue at the residence or premises where a minor attending the party obtains, possesses or consumes beer, light wine or alcoholic beverages.
The Social Host law exempts legally protected religious activities and family gatherings.
"We are very pleased the Social Host Law is being enforced," said Caroline Newkirk, member of Mississippians Advocating Against Underage Drinking and Developing Resources for Education in America statewide coordinator for underage drinking. "When the law was passed, we were concerned if it would be enforced. We have been training and working with law enforcement agencies on how to enforce the Social Host Law. It is an important law and it is making a difference. It is to remind adults, sometimes through legal means like in Caledonia, it is not okay to host these kinds of parties."
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