After a bench trial that saw five teenagers give testimony, the fate of a Franklin County teacher who is facing a criminal charge remains undecided.
Renae Stone Lambert, 45, who teaches high school Spanish, was indicted in July on one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In court Monday, details emerged that the charge stemmed from an April 14 party at Lambert’s Summit Drive home, thrown by her teenage daughter, at which at least two girls in their mid-teens consumed alcohol to the point of becoming sick and passing out.
Testimony showed Lambert was home at the time. She did not supply the libations but she also apparently didn’t notice that alcoholic beverages were being consumed until a few hours into the party. She also did not notify other parents.
Dozens of spectators were present for Monday’s criminal trial in Franklin County Circuit Court, which lasted more than three hours. Many of them sat on Lambert’s side of the room.
At the end of the hearing, after some discussion, Judge Clyde Perdue said he wanted to continue the case and take it under advisement for 60 days. The next hearing is set for Jan. 23.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a Class 1 misdemeanor that can bring up to 12 months in jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500.
Lambert taught at Franklin County High School until she was put on administrative leave by the school system. This week Superintendent Mark Church said Lambert has been “reassigned to a non-teaching position until the matter is resolved.”
It was not immediately clear how or if a conviction of this kind would affect Lambert’s employment with the school system.
During Monday’s trial, five party guests, all juveniles, gave their recollections of that night.
Roughly 25 to 40 high school students attended the gathering, they said. It began sometime around 6 p.m. and continued until past midnight in the basement level of the house and an adjacent outdoor area.
At least 10 female guests had planned to sleep over, and Lambert told police the boys knew they would have to leave around midnight.
The witnesses acknowledged that some guests were consuming beer and liquor, but they said they felt Lambert would not allow it so they attempted to hide it using party cups for their drinks. Some also said a vodka bottle and cans of Bud Light were left out in the open during the course of the night.
One female student testified that while in a room with other girls, she took four or five tequila shots within about 20 minutes, and she said she ended up getting sick and passing out in a bedroom in the basement. The witnesses said a second female student also appeared to become similarly intoxicated and was taken to the same room.
According to testimony, Lambert discovered the drinking around 10:30 p.m. and made the guests pour out their beverages.
Another female witness, 17, described taking care of one of the intoxicated girls for a few hours. She testified that after Lambert became aware of the drunk girls, she brought them water and Gatorade and periodically checked in, but she did not relieve the teen or take over the situation.
“They were very sick,” the 17-year-old said, adding that the girl she helped “needed someone to be there.”
Lambert did not testify Monday, but a former Rocky Mount police sergeant played a nearly hour-long recording of an interview she had given to investigators in April.
“It wasn’t a lot of kids that were like this, it was just a few,” she told police. “I’m not sure who brought what into the house.”
She said she had not felt the situation had risen to the level of seeking medical attention for the two intoxicated girls, who had planned in advance to spend the night.
But Lambert also told police that, in retrospect, she felt she should have informed their parents afterward.
“They [the girls] were very apologetic,” she told police, adding that she told them she would report them if she found out it happened again.
“There’s absolutely no evidence that Mrs. Lambert contributed to the delinquency of a minor,” defense attorney Will Davis said in his closing.
“Every witness has testified she didn’t want alcohol and they were hiding it from her,” he said.
“The kids were trying to hide the alcohol,” Commonwealth’s Attorney A.J. Dudley countered. “They failed in concealing the alcohol.”
“I’ve never had 25 to 30 teenagers at my house,” Dudley also said. “If I did, I think I would be on high alert.
“You should be more aware of what is going on,” he argued. “It’s almost like a willful indifference.”
Details also emerged that a male teenager, one of the prosecution’s witnesses, had been charged with a crime in Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Court over behavior alleged to have occurred that night.
Dudley confirmed that the case had been heard and that the teen was scheduled for sentencing. Citing the ages of those involved, he declined to comment on that case or to specify the charge against the student.
Another witness, subpoenaed by the commonwealth but called by the defense, testified that she had seen the boy with one of the intoxicated girls that night. She did not elaborate, but she said she had made the boy get away from the girl who was drunk.
In response to both questioning and cross-examination, that witness said that what she saw happened before Lambert had discovered the drinking. She also said she hadn’t told anyone what she witnessed.