An Edgewater couple accused of driving 20 miles with their 12-year-old son and his friend in the trunk of their car face child abuse and other charges in what their lawyer at a bail-review hearing yesterday called a "stupid" mistake on their part.
James John Duthoy, 46, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Duthoy, 42, were arrested Saturday night in a liquor store parking lot, where officers freed the "flushed red and sweating" boys from the trunk of the 1992 Pontiac Bonneville, according to charging documents.
The Duthoys spent about 48 hours behind bars at the Jennifer Road Detention Center in Annapolis, and a judge ordered that they have no unsupervised contact with their 12-year-old son until their trial. Jail officials said last night that the couple would be released by midnight.
Their lawyer, Mark S. Chandlee, argued at the bail review that the Duthoys were guilty of nothing more than terrible judgment. He said Frederick Duthoy, 12, and his friend, James Patrick Wright, 11, had asked to ride in the trunk and were "wrestling and playing" during the 20-minute trip.
"If you were setting a bond based on stupidity, it would have to be $10 million," Chandlee told District Judge Vincent A. Mulieri after asking that the couple be released on their own recognizance.
Mulieri, after calling the case "confusing" and "bizarre," reduced their $150,000 bonds to $10,000, of which they were allowed to post 10 percent to the court.
Throughout the 20-minute hearing, the weary-looking Duthoys, dressed in pine-green jail jumpsuits, exchanged glances with their 17-year-old son, Paul, and with Mary Duthoy's sister, Margaret Brown of Elkridge, who attended to support them. The Duthoys also have a 16-year-old daughter.
Brown placed her hands over Paul Duthoy's ears as the judge read the possible maximum prison sentence for each count of child abuse: 15 years.
Friends called the Duthoys a "straight-up suburban family" with children on the honor roll and a house on Seventh Avenue in Edgewater.
Mary Duthoy is an employee of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education and is a former teacher, Chandlee said.
She is a den mother and is involved in the PTA, he said.
James Duthoy is superintendent of a local roofing company, the lawyer said. He plays guitar with his elder son and is involved with the children's community sports.
Neither had ever been charged with a crime.
Now, in addition to two counts each of child abuse, Mary Duthoy is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and James Duthoy, who was driving the Pontiac, is charged with one count of second-degree assault and one count of reckless endangerment.
The father of the 11-year-old locked in the trunk said he is "floored" by the severity of the charges against the Duthoys.
"It's not a great idea, but it's not a jailable offense," said James David Wright, 43.
Wright and his wife, Elizabeth, have been friends of the Duthoys since their sons - nicknamed Freddy and Jimmy - were in kindergarten together. The Wrights said they bear no animosity toward the Duthoys and are watching Freddy Duthoy while his parents are in jail.
From now until the trial, which has not been scheduled, the Duthoys will not be allowed unsupervised contact with their 12-year-old, Mulieri said. He ordered that the boy stay with Brown. The elder children will be allowed to live with their parents.
"This is just wrong," James Wright, who was not present at yesterday's hearing, said of Duthoys' legal tangle. "They're good parents. I've always trusted my son with them."
The incident began about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, outside Calypso Bay Restaurant and Bar on Deale Road. The Duthoys and their youngest son, Freddy, had been dining there with the Wright family.
After dinner, Jimmy Wright asked to ride home with the Duthoys, and Freddy Duthoy asked his parents if the two could ride in the trunk, according the story the boys told James Wright.
The Duthoys consented, according to police and the couple's lawyer. James Wright said he and his wife were parked in a separate lot and did not see the boys get into the trunk.
But a witness called Anne Arundel County police to report the incident. Patrol officers received a call to be on the lookout for the blue, four-door Bonneville and later spotted it at Cox Wine and Spirits on Mayo Road.
The charging documents indicate officers needed a key to retrieve the boys from the locked trunk. They recorded an outside temperature of 73 degrees with 84 percent humidity.
Family members at the bail-review hearing said the Duthoys have never harmed their children and intended no malice by placing them in the trunk.
"They're going to be kicking themselves about this," Brown said at the hearing. "It was just stupid."