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MADISON - The Wisconsin Court of Appeals today affirmed the conviction of a 22-year-old Portage County man, Ronald L. Wille, Jr., for causing death by providing alcohol beverages to a minor.
The felony charge was filed after seventeen-year-old Kristopher Meshak died of injuries sustained in a one-car crash on January 1, 2004, after consuming beer Wille had purchased for an underage drinking party at a Portage County farm. In affirming Wille's conviction, the appeals court rejected his contention that he could not be held liable for Meshak's death because there was no evidence he had any contact with Meshak or otherwise knew that the teen would be attending the party.
The court found that the charging statute only requires the state to prove that the defendant procured alcohol beverages for a person under 18 and the defendant "knew or should have known" that the person was under the legal drinking age of 21. Because Wille did not dispute that Meshak was under 18 and unaccompanied by a parent when he attended the party, the court found that Wille's admission that he knew when he bought the beer and arranged for its delivery that an underage drinking party was planned was sufficient to support his conviction.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen praised the court's decision, declaring that "procuring alcohol for minors is a serious problem throughout Wisconsin. Providing underage persons with alcohol can have tragic consequences, including death. This decision sends the signal to would-be violators that serious consequences can follow from the ill-advised decision to furnish beer and other alcoholic beverages to persons under the legal drinking age."
Wille was prosecuted by the Portage County District Attorney's Office. Assistant District Attorney David Knaapen was lead trial counsel. Assistant Attorney General Margie Moeller represented the state in the appeal.