Travis Platt, Christopher Roth and Sherman Bennett Sr. were each fined and sentenced to probation in hearings before Douglas County State Court Judge James E. “Eddie” Barker.
The proceedings were held about two weeks after an April 11 hearing before Superior Court Judge Robert James in which co-defendant Dustin Willis pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and two counts of causing serious injury by vehicle. Willis was sentenced to 15 years on each of three counts. The sentences will run concurrently, and James ordered that he must serve nine years in prison.
Willis was accused of supplying the alcohol that was consumed by Jason Lark, the driver of a Chevy Blazer that overturned after a night of partying on Feb. 19, 2011 – a crash that killed 16-year-old Cheyenne Sauls, a student at Villa Rica High School. The accident came after a night on which a group had gone to a number of gatherings at homes, where underage drinking is alleged to have taken place.
Lark is serving seven years.
Richard Todd McAllister, whose home at 4241 Sterling Pointe Drive was the site of a Feb. 18, 2011, bonfire party, was charged with five counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors. His son, Justin McAllister, and Travis Platt were charged with furnishing alcohol to minors and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Sherman Bennett Sr. is accused of buying alcohol and permitting it to be consumed at a party at his Biscayne Way home.
Former Chapel Hill Package Store owner Rakeshbhai “Rocky” Patel was charged Feb. 24, 2011, with two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors. Bennett and Roth are allegedly connected to a party held in the home where Bennett, his son and daughter-in-law and grandsons live on Biscayne Way. Bennett had responsibility for his older grandson because his son and daughter-in-law were out of town.
Lark, Sauls and the other occupants of Lark’s vehicle allegedly went to the party. Bennett admitted to going to Arbor Place Beverage Depot at 7455 Douglas Boulevard and purchasing alcohol at the request of his 16-year-old grandson and the grandson’s friends. One of the friends, Roth, allegedly drove them to the package store where the elder Bennett purchased two bottles of vodka, six bottles of Four Loko alcoholic drink as well as beer.
Platt pleaded guilty Tuesday to possession of alcohol by a minor and furnishing alcohol to a minor. In addition to 12 months probation, Barker also ordered him to pay a $500 fine and $50 in court costs. He must also be subject to alcohol and drug testing as well as agree to give truthful testimony as a witness for the state.
According to Assistant Solicitor Wesley Starrett, Platt admitted to purchasing alcohol at the Chapel Hill Package Store while he was underage.
When asked if he presented an ID to the clerk when he purchased alcohol at the Chapel Hill Package Store, he replied, “No, sir.”Platt testified that he knew that he could get alcohol at the package store without presenting an ID and that Patel was the one who sold it to him that night.
Platt’s attorney, Timothy McCreary, told the judge that his client will soon graduate from high school.
“He has been very compliant, very direct and straightforward about the truth of the events,” Platt said.
Before handing down his sentence, Barker acknowledged that no one ever intends for a tragedy to happen such as a fatal wreck. He said that many times people, especially youth, learn there are consequences to their actions even if it’s something no one ever dreamed might actually happen.
“Sometimes it’s a hard lesson for young people,” Barker said. “It’s a hard lesson for older people to learn. There (are) folks that come in here on a weekly basis that get behind the wheel after they had too much to drink. It’s a problem that’s not limited to just young people making mistakes. Ultimately, (this) tragic accident occurred and a young lady lost her life as a result of that.”Barker acknowledged that Sauls’ death has impacted many people in the community.
Roth pleaded guilty to possession of alcohol by a minor. In addition to 12 months probation, Barker also ordered him to pay a $500 fine and $50 in court costs. He must also be subject to alcohol and drug testing as well as perform 80 hours of community service. Roth’s attorney, Nick Winn, told the judge that his client is 18 years old and has been keeping out of trouble.
“He graduated from Alexander High School early,” Winn said. “He’s already got a year of college under his belt. ... He’s sincerely sorry for what happened or transpired later that night.”
Bennett pleaded guilty to four counts of furnishing alcohol to minors. In addition to 12 months probation, Barker ordered him to pay a $100 fine on each count and $50 in court costs. He was also ordered to have no contact with juveniles other than family members.