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Attorney pleads not guilty to social host charges

WAKEFIELD — A 51-year-old attorney pleaded not guilty Thursday to a South Kingstown police charge of violating the social host ordinance in 4th Division District Court before Judge Madeline Quirk.

W. Mark Russo, of 441 Moonstone Beach Road, the court-appointed special master who was in charge of The Westerly Hospital during its receivership, was represented by attorney Victoria Almeida and made his first appearance in court Thursday.

Russo is charged with a misdemeanor after emergency personnel were reportedly called to the scene when an 18-year-old party-goer at his home became ill during an after-prom party.

According to Sgt. Mark Healy, when South Kingstown police arrived on the scene they found about 20 attendees under 21. He said police found there were open alcohol containers on the property and some of the minors appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. Police said Russo had collected the keys of the party-goers and blocked the entrance and exit to the driveway to prevent them from leaving.

He said Russo was located at the residence and “assisted in safely dispersing the gathering.” A subsequent investigation, Healy said, determined Russo had permitted the consumption of alcohol by minors on the property.

Russo was released on a promise to appear for a pretrial hearing on July 10.

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