West Tisbury Police seek charges in underage drinking party


The West Tisbury Police summonsed Matthew Howell, 56, and Scott Fielding, 22, on charges of violating the state’s social host law by knowingly providing a place for minors to consume alcohol, Lieutenant Matt Mincone told The Times on Wednesday.

On Saturday night, West Tisbury police officer Matthew Gebo responded to a call for an ambulance at 11:26 pm to aid a juvenile male having a seizure at Mr. Howell’s home at 84 Christiantown Road, where he lives with Mr. Fielding, police said.

Officer Gebo said when he first arrived he saw evidence of a drinking party. “I witnessed several types of alcoholic beverages strewn about,” he wrote in his report.

With the help of three of his friends, who had made the emergency call, officer Gebo found the young man having a seizure on a deck at the house.

“I applaud them for stepping up and being responsible, knowing they were somewhere they shouldn’t be, and not just walking away,” Lieutenant Mincone said.

While Officer Gebo and EMTs tended to the teen, Officer Jim Neville arrived to assist them. The two officers noted in their report that when they first arrived, there were about 12 to 15 vehicles leaving from the house, filled with about 40 to 50 young people, many of whom they recognized as minors.

After the ambulance left, the police officers asked some of the remaining guests who was hosting the party. The answer, police said, was Mr. Fielding.

Officers Gebo and Neville knocked on the front door and got no response. Officer Neville looked in a window and saw Mr. Howell, who appeared to be sleeping. Police knocked on the window to wake him. Mr. Howell spoke with the officers and said Mr. Fielding had told him to stay in his room for the night, according to police. He said he was unaware that a medical call involving a juvenile came from his home.

The police officers found Mr. Fielding hiding in a closet.

“He told them he was aware of the party and was hiding because he was afraid and didn’t know what to do,” Lieutenant Mincone said.

The police officers told both men they would be charged with violating the social host law. Lieutenant Mincone said his department applied for a show cause hearing at the Edgartown District Court to seek an arraignment.

“This is not the first time the West Tisbury Police Department has heard of something like this happening at this address or the first time charges have been filed,” Lieutenant Mincone said. “Mr. Howell was charged with the same offense on April 8, 2012.”

The lieutenant said the young man transported by ambulance was treated at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and his parents were contacted, as were the parents of several other underage party-goers.

“What’s concerning to us is the age difference in the people that were there — it ranged from 56 to 15,” Lieutenant Mincone said.

Under the social host law, anyone who allows minors to possess alcohol at a home or property he or she owns may be fined criminally and also sued civilly. The penalty is a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both.

Lieutenant Mincone said there is a message the West Tisbury Police Department wants to get out: “We’re not having any tolerance for people who host parties where minors consume alcohol.”