The holiday season brings family gatherings and celebrations that often include alcohol. Theresa Bruckner’s tragic story serves as a reminder that those serving alcohol at their parties or in their homes are responsible for the safety of those drinking and those who might be injured or killed by a guest’s unwise decision to drive home while drunk.
Theresa Bruckner, 52, of Browns Summit, North Carolina, near Greensboro, pleaded no contest to three counts of aiding and abetting a person less than 21 years of age to possess or consume alcohol that led to a car wreck killing three people, two of them teenagers. Bruckner was charged in July 2010.
The driver of the car, Amanda Sperduti, age 20, and her three passengers, Sascha Adela Hoffman, 18, Taylor Leigh McCaskill, 18, and Scott Wayne Bedwell, 23, had left Bruckner’s home and were on their way to a party. Troopers said that all four had been drinking at Bruckner’s home before the crash occurred. Sperduti’s blood-alcohol level was .20—more than twice the legal limit—when she ran off the road and struck a street sign, then a tree, at 90 miles an hour in a 45 zone. The Acura the four were riding in was torn in half; the three victims were pronounced dead at the scene. Sperduti is serving 7 to 12 years in prison for aggravated felony death by motor vehicle.
Bruckner’s Plea Deal
In Bruckner’s plea deal, she was given a 45-day jail sentence, placed on probation, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service—a sentence that may seem mild for actions that led to the deaths of three people, especially considering that a 20-year-old was sentenced to up to 12 years. Also as part of the deal, the same charges against her son, Kyle Bruckner, who was 22 at the time he was charged, were dropped.
As adults, it may be tempting to let older teenagers drink at family parties or in the home. After all, it’s supervised, it’s only one or two, and so what will it hurt? But alcohol, no matter how much or how little
is consumed, can lead to bad decisions and reckless behavior. Young, inexperienced drivers are at a higher risk for crashes, and wrecks are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s irresponsible to add alcohol to the mix.
But more importantly, giving alcohol to anyone under 21 is illegal. Offenders can be prosecuted criminally, although the penalties for it don’t have enough teeth. Under some circumstances, an offender can also be exposed to civil liability for serving alcohol to someone who is obviously inebriated, and this may actually be a more powerful deterrent to this crime.