NEWBURYPORT — The courtroom was real, the court officers and judge too, but the defendant, Suzie Smith, wasn’t.
Rather, she was a Triton Middle School student portraying a fictional 21-year-old woman who hosted her own birthday party where alcohol got into the hands of minors with almost tragic results. As a result, Suzie was charged with procuring alcohol to persons under 21 and yesterday her case was heard inside Newburyport District Court, the culmination of the lengthy 21st Century Community Learning Centers Mock Trial after-school program.
About a dozen middle school students split up into one of three teams: the prosecution, the defense and witnesses. A jury of 12 composed of school officials, teachers and other members of the school community listened to both sides as Judge Peter Doyle presided over the proceedings. Aiding both sides during the after-school class were attorneys Charles Rotundi and Nicole Reilly.
To celebrate her 21st birthday, Smith, played by Alexa Reilly, “bought” a case of beer and a bottle of vodka for her guests. Her younger sister was assigned designated driver and tasked to make sure minors couldn’t get their hands on alcohol. But apparently all of Smith’s good intentions failed when police arrived after receiving a complaint about a loud party and caught at least two minors drinking. Another party guest left the house drunk and smashed his car into a pole. The all-too-true story was relayed to the jury by prosecutors Caroline Hazelton, Hannah Reilly, Jacob Gabrian and Emily Reilly.
The defense team of Dayna Rybicki, Liam Gay-Killeen, Ryan Farrell, Owen Heffernan and Noelle Indingaro asked questions of the police officers, performed by students Molly Gagnon and Thomas Cunningham, hoping to disprove their testimony. Portraying witnesses for the defense were Isabella St. Arneault and Kyle Wheeler. Aiding both sides during the after-school class were attorneys Charles Rotundi and Nicole Reilly.