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Liquor Board members express concern over tactics


County Liquor Board members questioned the tactics of county police Friday in a case in which an underage police cadet bought beer from a West Friendship store after lying about being officer and about his age.

The five County Council members who make up the Liquor Board were urged by county prosecutors and representatives of the county chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to take a "zero tolerance" approach during hearings on this case and another.

The board is expected to decide both cases within 30 days.

James Foster, owner of Foster's Country Store on Triadelphia at Frederick roads, faces a 30-day liquor-license suspension and $1,000 fine for allegedly selling a $2.75 quart of Coor's Lite beer to 20-year-old Cadet Todd Leppert in the spring.

Mr. Leppert told board members that at the time of purchase he told Mr. Foster that he could not provide identification and that he was 21, and answered "no" when asked if he were a police cadet.

Mr. Foster said he's learned his lesson. "I've kicked myself in the rear a lot," he said.

Mr. Foster's lawyer, Tom Meachum, asked the board to reduce his client's penalty to $500 and a two-day license suspension.

Council members Paul R. Farragut, D-4th District, and C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd District, expressed concern that the cadet's answers to the questions may have been a form of entrapment.

But Senior Assistant County Solicitor Todd Taylor said that the police cadet, who worked the surprise inspection with Liquor Board inspector Detective Holly Burnham, exercised good judgment in investigating the business's practices. He compared the cadet's tactics with those of undercover drug agents who shield their identities from drug dealers during investigations.

In another case, Allview Liquors in Dorsey's Search is charged with selling a six-pack of malt liquor to Mr. Leppert on Feb. 18.

Store employees complained that the mature look and mustache of the husky cadet made him appear older than 21.

Baltimore attorney J. Bernard McClellan said Allview Liquors is not challenging the petition against it but is trying to keep the 32-year-old business stable.

Even a temporary suspension of Allview Liquors' alcohol license could jeopardize the business and force staff cuts, said general manager Dennis Liberto.

"Mistakes happen," said Allview manager Robert Cheetham. "Nobody's perfect."

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