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After wild party, justice is metered out

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Curran
Associated Press / June 3, 2008

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - After more than two dozen young people trashed a former residence of poet Robert Frost during a drinking party, the dilemma was how to punish them.

A jail term might be too harsh, community service too easy.

So a prosecutor decided on some poetic justice instead, sending them back to school for training about the celebrated New England bard.

Using "The Road Not Taken" and another poem as jumping-off points, Frost biographer Jay Parini hopes to show the vandals the error of their ways and the redemptive power of poetry.

"I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was, and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people's property in the future and would also learn something from the experience," said Addison County State's Attorney John Quinn.

The damage occurred at the Homer Noble Farm, in Ripton, where Frost spent more than 20 summers before his death in 1963. Now owned by Middlebury College, the unheated farm house is used occasionally by the college.

On Dec. 28, a 17-year-old former Middlebury College employee who knew the farmhouse planned a party, giving $100 to a friend to buy beer.

Word spread. Up to 50 people descended on the farm, the revelry turning destructive after a chair broke and someone threw it into the fireplace.

When it was over, windows, antique furniture, and china had been broken, fire extinguishers discharged, and carpeting soiled. Empty beer cans and drug paraphernalia were left behind. The damage was set at $10,600.

Twenty-eight people were charged, mostly with trespassing. About 25 entered pleas or were accepted into court diversion provided they undergo the Frost training.

Restitution was ordered in some of the cases, and most were also ordered to perform community service. The man who bought the beer got a three-day jail term.

Parini, 60, a Middlebury College professor, who has stayed at the house in the past, was eager to oblige when asked to teach, donating his time for the two classes.

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