Brownville mother guilty of giving girls marijuana, alcohol at party

Posted March 21, 2012, at 6 p.m.
Last modified March 21, 2012, at 7:21 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Tanya Donnelly sat with her head in her hands and cried after the jury returned guilty verdicts on charges that stemmed from a birthday party she held for her daughter and the girl’s friends last year at which she supplied marijuana and alcohol.

The jury in Piscataquis County Superior Court took less than 45 minutes to reach its decision.

Donnelly, 37, of Brownville was convicted on all seven counts: aggravated unlawful furnishing of a schedule Z drug, aggravated furnishing of marijuana, unlawful furnishing of a schedule Z drug, unlawful furnishing of marijuana, furnishing liquor to a minor, allowing a minor to possess or consume liquor, and endangering the welfare of a child.

The charges stemmed from a birthday party Donnelly held for her daughter on March 24, 2011. Six friends of her daughter testified Tuesday that Donnelly took the girls to the basement of her house, where she smoked marijuana with three of them.

The witnesses said that Donnelly bought them Mike’s Hard Lemonade, a malt beverage, from a nearby store and served it to them mixed with Kool-Aid. They also said she gave one of the girls a prescription drug belonging to her son to calm the girl down.

Donnelly’s attorney, Dale Thistle, said it would be about a month until the sentencing hearing.

“I think the evidence certainly justified the verdict,” said prosecutor Christopher Almy, district attorney for Piscataquis and Penobscot counties, after the trial.

Thistle played an hour-and-a-half-long audiotaped interview that Brownville police had with Donnelly on March 31, 2011, a week after the party. Thistle said Donnelly had taken a sleeping aid before police took her to the station and was constantly yawning during the interview.

Donnelly denied giving the girls alcohol or smoking marijuana in the interview. The alcohol she bought was for herself, she said.

“You made some mistakes last week. You need to be upfront about those,” said Brownville Police Chief Nick Clukey during the taped interview.

“I’m not going to admit to things I didn’t do,” said Donnelly, who admitted to drinking alcohol while with the girls, but said she didn’t give any to them.

After she was arrested, Donnelly admitted to giving a prescription drug to one of the girls to make her calm down. Donnelly said she gave the girl Clonidine, a pill that treats high blood pressure. On Tuesday, two witnesses stated that the drug given was Klonopin, an anti-convulsant or anti-epileptic drug.

Donnelly testified Wednesday that the reason she took the girls to her house, which was under construction because of a flood, was to show her perfume and knife collections and to talk about birthday presents for her son, not to smoke marijuana.

She said she can’t smoke marijuana because of her illnesses.

“I have pulmonary hypertension and I’m terminally ill,” said Donnelly, who started to cry on the stand.

She said she has been flown by LifeFlight to Boston several times to see a specialized doctor because one side of her heart is enlarged. She had a small oxygen tank with her in the courtroom and periodically used an inhaler.

Earlier Wednesday, Donnelly’s daughter, 14, testified that she and a group of six friends did not go to Donnelly’s house to smoke marijuana.

“She’d probably die from it,” she said, referring to the smoking of marijuana.

Donnelly said Wednesday that she gave Brownville police Officer Chad Perkins, who testified in court earlier, the keys to her house on March 31, 2011, because she had nothing to hide.

“That’s why I gave my keys to police. I thought it would clear me [if they searched my house],” said Donnelly when asked if she bought or smoked marijuana.

Instead, Perkins testified that he found pieces of leaves and seeds which were consistent with marijuana in the basement of Donnelly’s house. A gum package and air fresheners were also found in the same area, two items that witnesses told police were used during the party. Empty Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles were found at the home of Donnelly’s father, where the party also took place.

The daughter said her friends lied to police because they were upset that her mother wouldn’t buy them alcohol.

“I was torn between believing my friends and believing the truth,” she said. “I didn’t want to ruin the friendship.”

Perkins said in the taped interview that it didn’t make sense for all the girls to lie.

“I can’t think these girls planted these [marijuana] seeds and came up with this story,” said Perkins. “They answered my questions. You can understand why I have some difficulty with [your story].”

Almy praised the six girls who testified. He said it’s important for children who have been abused to testify.

“In order to convict somebody, kids who have been victimized, either in the fashion we demonstrated in this case or by being abused sexually or otherwise, have to testify,” Almy said after the trial. “They are the witnesses. It’s not a simple task to ask kids to come in and take the burden here. In this case, six of them did. They met their responsibility. It wasn’t easy.”

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