No charges in underage-drinking case linked to fatal crash

Ellicott City woman still has to attend MADD function

December 22, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Police wanted criminal charges filed against a woman who they believed supplied alcohol to underage drinkers at her Ellicott City home the night last year that 17-year-old Steven Dankos was killed in a drunken-driving accident, according to prosecutors.

A Howard County District Court commissioner refused, and Linda Stapf was given a citation instead.

That procedural dispute led to prosecutors' agreeing Wednesday in Howard County District Court to Judge Mary C. Reese's putting Stapf's case on the inactive docket, where it will stay as long as Stapf attends a victim impact panel hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Stapf had faced a fine up to $2,500.

Howard County State's Attorney Dario J. Broccolino said that "technical problems in the charging document" led to his office's not pursuing its case against Stapf.

"We weren't really interested in collecting the money," Broccolino said. "It's more to serve notice with the community that we will pursue these type of cases. I think we've accomplished that."

Nancy Davis, Dankos' mother, said, "I hope she learned something."

Stapf left the courthouse without comment, and her attorney, Jim Mayer, declined comment.

Dankos, then a junior at River Hill High School in Clarksville, was killed Nov. 29, 2009, when a pickup truck driven by David Erdman, the 22-year-old brother of Dankos' best friend and football teammate, crashed and overturned, police said, shortly after they left a party at Stapf's house. Erdman pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol. He is serving an 18-month sentence in the Howard County detention center. Erdman and his younger brother, Thomas, had been scheduled to testify for the prosecution in Stapf's case.

Tim Maloney, Davis' attorney, said that "the statute is unclear" in determining the type of charges that can be filed. Though the fine has been raised from $500 in the past two years, Maloney said that state legislators should consider a much stiffer penalty for those who provide alcohol to minors who are not family members.

"They need incarceration," Maloney said. "A monetary fine is not enough."

Caroline Cash, the executive director of MADD's Maryland and Delaware chapters, agreed.

"Jail time would be quite the equalizer," Cash said.

Though she was not familiar with the procedural dispute in Staph's case, Cash said she hopes Stapf will get something out of the panel she attends.

"We hope that the offenders recognize the horrible impact of their decisions and make better choices in the future," Cash said.

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