THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

N. Andover party leads to parents’ arrest

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / April 27, 2010

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NORTH ANDOVER — When North Andover police arrived Friday night at the Smits home, an expansive two-story perched on the edge of a wooded valley, they found a familiar scene.

Dozens of cars were choking Blue Ridge Road and empty beer cans were jammed under the rear of one vehicle. A teenager was wandering along the Smitses’ immaculate lawn, his breath carrying a strong odor of alcohol. He told the officers he had been drinking, according to court records.

When the officers walked to the backyard, they saw several youths sprint into the woods, apparently fleeing after spotting the officers, and in the basement, there were dozens of teens, some intoxicated, a police report stated. Beer cans covered a pool table.

Police have broken up three underage drinking parties across town since April 3, a trend that worries authorities as prom season approaches. In two of the parties, including this one, parents were present.

Lieutenant Paul Gallagher said in a telephone interview yesterday: “We’re coming to the end of the year for a lot of students, a time when they can tend to get carried away. But hosting these gatherings is the wrong message to send to youth.’’

Ronald and Susan Smits, both 49, were arrested and charged with keeping a noisy and disorderly house and contributing to the delinquency of a child. Police said they corralled in the Smitses’ kitchen as many as two dozen minors at the party and contacted their parents to pick them up.

The police report, filled out by Sergeant John Pickard, stated, “Some of these youths were clearly intoxicated, while others were not.’’

The minors were all released to the custody of their parents.

According to the report, Ronald Smits answered his door soon after police arrived and told them that he and his wife were allowing their 18-year-old daughter to have a house party with her friends. Police replied that they had seen intoxicated minors and that the situation was “serious.’’

Robert Solomon, attorney for the Smits, said yesterday afternoon that the parents “had no role in serving alcoholic beverages to anybody. The alcohol was apparently brought into the basement through a side door, and they had no idea because they were upstairs.’’

Solomon said that Ronald Smits is a 20-year veteran of the Dutch Air Force, holding a “very prestigious position,’’ and that Susan Smits is a nine-year veteran of the US Air Force. They have a son in a college ROTC program. Their daughter is a student at North Andover High School, Solomon said.

While standing in front of her house, neighbor Paula Grant said yesterday that “knowing this family, I don’t think they had any knowledge these kids brought alcohol. I’m surmising [the teens] brought it themselves.’’

Another neighbor, Tanya Gould, said she picked up the Smitses at 3 a.m. Saturday, after they were released from police custody.

“I think there was overreaction on the part of the police,’’ she said. “The reality is that teenagers drink. I’m not so sure that they [police] had to take the Smitses in; they could have just issued a summons. It wasn’t an out-of-control party in any way.’’

She said the parents were upstairs throughout the party.

Aside from the Smitses, there was one other arrest at the party.

Robert Acciacca, 20, was arrested for alleged disorderly conduct. Police said he became irate after they arrived and interfered with the investigation.

On April 3, Acciacca and his father, Robert A. Acciacca, were arrested after they allegedly hosted a party at 168 Campbell Road, where alcohol was being consumed by some of the minors in attendance.

The younger Robert Acciacca said yesterday in a telephone interview that the party at the Smitses “was just like any other party.

People were having a good time, girls were taking pictures, and we were just sitting and drinking a little and nothing more than that. I don’t think the police had to come in and bust it up like they did. It wasn’t needed.’’

The Smitses and Acciacca are scheduled to be arraigned today in Lawrence District Court.

In the second of the three incidents, occurring on April 18, an 18-year-old female was arrested for hosting a party at 1041 Forest St., where minors allegedly consumed alcohol.

“There needs to be a strong message sent that this will not be allowed,’’ Gallagher said.

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