Tierney could get prison time for DUI crash deaths
Jodie L. Tierney's sentence for providing alcohol to teens, including two who died in a fiery DUI crash, could range from probation to state prison, according to trial attorneys.
"The whole gamut is possible," chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said, adding there's a high probability he and co-prosecutor Sarah Buhite will argue for prison time.
However, he said that decision won't be made until after he reviews Tierney's pre-sentence investigation and impact statements from the families of teen victims Stone Hill and Nick Mankin.
Defense attorney Doug Bare said the fact that Tierney has no prior criminal record will likely be a major factor in her sentencing.
Trial's message: Bare said the trial's message should be to educate parents and to help stop underage drinking.
"I hope all parents are educated in that there is a drinking/driving/texting epidemic in high schools that we have to stop," he said.
Barker said the most important takeaway from the trial is that "we exposed the truth of what occurred."
Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook set sentencing for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 29. That is now also the sentencing date and time for Tierney's husband, who pleaded guilty last week to lesser charges.
Tierney, 46, of Percheron Drive in Windsor Township, declined comment after the verdict.
It was standing room only in the courtroom for the verdict, even after extra chairs were brought in. As the verdict was read, quite a few people cried quietly.
Jurors took 90 minutes to find Tierney guilty of two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and one count each of corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors.
Crash preventable: Barker told jurors Thursday morning during his closing argument that Tierney could easily have prevented the DUI crash deaths of Stone and Nick by simply acting like a parent.
"They would be alive today if she had done something — anything, anything — to act like a parent. To act like that adopted mother (as she called herself)," he argued. "All she needed to do was ... pick up the phone. They're dead because she wouldn't."
He said trial testimony showed Tierney, who was called "Mama Jodes" by the group of teens, wanted her son to be popular and wanted to be considered a popular mom.
"Alcohol ensured that popularity," Barker told jurors.
During the nine-day trial, jurors heard that from December 2014 to June 2015, Tierney allowed a group of Red Lion Area High School teens to drink openly and to excess at her home, with "no rules, no repercussions," as Barker put it.
"That is the condition the defendant allowed to exist at her (home) for months," he said.
'Wheel of death': It was like a "wheel of death," he told the jury, "and it (was) spinning."
Prosecution testimony revealed a number of teens drove drunk after leaving the Tierney home on a number of occasions. But Barker said on those other occasions, the teens' number simply didn't come up.
Stone, 17, and Nick, 16, were killed June 16, 2015, when Stone lost control of his SUV, which flipped, slammed into a utility pole and burst into flames on Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township, just minutes from Stone's home. The crash was called in to 911 at 7:09 p.m.
'Deadly combination': The teens were on their way to Stone's house from the Tierney home, where they spent the day hanging out, swimming and drinking, according to prosecution testimony.
"Teenagers and alcohol are a deadly combination," Barker said, then reminded jurors of a study that shows intoxicated male drivers ages 16 to 20 are 52 times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than sober males in the same age group.
Barker argued that Tierney lied to the parents of her "adopted" boys, "keeping secluded that she's allowing minors to drink."
'Ragers': Barker said the teen drinking parties at the Tierney home were "ragers." And Tierney actually bought the teens alcohol three times, he argued.
From December '14 to June '15, there was vomiting, passing out and one occasion of bed-wetting, he said. One young man was body-slammed by a friend for trying to inappropriately touch girls, he said.
One of the young men became so drunk on rum he was unresponsive and literally had to be carried to his father's car, Barker reminded jurors, but still Tierney didn't alert any parents.
'Epitome of indifference': Barker called Tierney's inaction "the epitome of indifference" toward the teens, and scoffed at her assertion that she had no idea all that drinking was going on in her home.
"That's absolutely incredible and illogical," he told jurors. "All she did over and over and over and over again was endanger them."
And testimony revealed that when her husband told her "this has to stop," she informed him that she makes the rules, Barker reminded jurors.
"If you have a duty to care and you fail to act, you're liable," he said. "And she did nothing. ... She violated that duty."
Defense says no proof: But Bare, the defense attorney, argued during his closing that Tierney is innocent of both manslaughter and child endangerment. He conceded she is guilty of furnishing alcohol to minors but insisted that was on one occasion only.
He said there's no proof Stone was driving the SUV and no evidence either teen was wearing a seat belt.
Bare also said jurors should consider whether Stone was texting at the time of the crash, since testimony revealed he had texted while driving just minutes before the crash.
BAC test: The attorney also disputes results of Stone's blood-alcohol test, which were 0.094 percent. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.
Bare reminded jurors that a medical expert for the defense dismissed the result as unreliable.
Also, he said, no one forced the teens to drink.
"We know there's a long history of these kids drinking alcohol," Bare told jurors, adding the prosecution wanted to make it sound as if Tierney turned the group "into a drinking machine."
"They have this twisted tale here of what happened," Bare said of prosecutors. "Accidents happen for many, many, many reasons."
He also argued the teens drank at other people's homes too.
Guilty plea: Jodie Tierney's husband, Stephen D. Tierney, 46, pleaded guilty last week to corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors. He had been scheduled to stand trial with his wife.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.