Who's Responsible in the Illinois Hazing Incident?

This partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, May 9, 2003  that has been edited for clarity. It was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST:  Earlier this week, we showed you video of high school hazing that turned violent.  New video shows more horrible images of girls being beaten by other girls.  Who should be held responsible?  Joining now defense attorney Mel Sachs and attorney Mark Smith. 

Now, Mark, your contention is that the parents should be held responsible.  You want to punish the parents for what these girls are doing.  How -- explain that.

MARK SMITH, ATTORNEY:  Alan, look, the parents are the guardians.  Until a child is old enough to be able to enter into contracts on his own or to be able to join the military on his own, until that time, the parents are responsible for the conduct of the child.

COLMES:  So anything the child does, anything at all that a child...


COLMES:  No matter what that is, you would haul the parents into court instead of the kids?

SMITH:  No, I think you have to do both.  But certainly the parents are responsible for their children.  Look, if the family dog bites somebody that is your responsibility.


COLMES:  Are you comparing a child to the family dog?

SMITH:  Yes in the following way in that a person who's the head of the household or the parent of the house hold is responsible for the acts of a dog as well as the acts of a child.  The answer is yes that's what...


COLMES:  Comparing the family dog to a sentient human being, in this case, we're talking about high school kids, we're talking about kids.  Look at this video.  I mean, these are kids.  You want to blame the parents for what's going on here?

Mel, let's get your reaction to this.  Is there any legal ground upon which you can blame parents for what we're seeing in the video?

MEL SACHS, ATTORNEY:  Well there's a fundamental difference between civil liability and criminal liability.  Certainly there isn't any criminal liability.  One has to be an aider and abettor, act as a accomplice, a co-conspirator.  One has to be involved in solicitation, facilitation.  There isn't any of that type of conduct.  We can blame the parents for what the child does.  The children have to be held accountable for their own conduct.

HANNITY:  Mark, I don't want to agree with Alan.  Don't put me this that position.  Please.



HANNITY:  Well, I blame -- these kids are old enough.  I mean when you saw that video that we -- this is the new video we just ran here.  They're old enough.  I blame them.

SMITH:  Yes, I agree.

HANNITY:  Maybe in a civil way, perhaps, Mel, you could be right.

SMITH:  I think we blame the children as well as the parents. 


HANNITY:  ... the kids drinking here.  Now look at his.  They're forcing these kids to drink. 


SACHS:  You can shift the responsibility to the parent.  Then the child feels, OK, I can't be held accountable, the parents should be.  We have to teach children...


SMITH:  I want a responsibility.  Who did bring the beer?  That's a factual question.  There aren't any parents who were there.  They don't have any control of what these children are doing.

HANNITY:  I got in enough trouble as a kid I would hate to have had my parents held responsible for every dumb, idiotic thing I did as a kid.  It wouldn't have been fair.

SACHS:  Children have to be learn to be responsible themselves.  We can't shift so that...


HANNITY:  They used to have, quote, "a juvenile delinquent card" is what they called it.  You know, and I never got one, by the way.

SACHS:  Of course not, Sean.

HANNITY:  But a J.D. card is what we called them.  But kids in the neighborhood did get them.  And they were held, some kids were sent to reform school, as we called it at the time.  Boy, I'm getting old.

SACHS:  And the ones who were considered to be juvenile delinquents and sent to reform schools deserved it.  Because they did it -- not their parents. 


SACHS:  We can't do that.  It's very easy to shift the burden to the parents.  We can't allow that to happen.


SMITH:  But this is about the personal responsibility of the parents to do their job as parents and to make sure that their children are behaving appropriately.  Until the -- until we as a society...


SMITH:  No, I don't think you necessarily need to send them to jail.  But you need to incentive the parents to do the right thing...


HANNITY:  Alan as a kid was incorrigible.

COLMES:  You didn't know me then!  You barely know me now.  Don't forget to log on to Foxnews.com. 


COLMES:  We'll show you more of that video.  I wonder who bought that keg.  Coming up.  This is HANNITY & COLMES.


HANNITY:  As we continue on HANNITY & COLMES, all right, I want to go back to this new video we have about this hazing incident.  And I want both of you now, you're both attorney, look at in particular what's going on here. 

This is new video from today.  The punching.  I mean, is that not by definition assault?  What charges are we talking about here, number one?  And number two, you know, what is the parent's culpability in all of this?  I mean, is this initiation?  Did they agree to sign up for this when they were getting into the club or the whatever it is?

I don't see any parents in that tape.  I don't see any parents in any way egging them on or telling them what to do.  They're responsible for their actions, and their age is extremely important.  These are 17 and 18-year-olds.

Mark, do we bring them up on charges?

SMITH:  The people that we see in the that are committing assault and battery?  Absolutely yes.


HANNITY:  What are the charges and what should the penalty be?

SMITH:  I think assault and battery.  And I think the penalty here would probably -- it depends on each individual case, but I would say certainly maybe a weekend in appropriate detention facility might teach them a lesson they won't forget and they...

HANNITY:  What about the parents though?

SMITH:  I think to the extent that there's any civil liability, I think their parents should be held responsible...

HANNITY:  Up to what figure?

SMITH:  It's hard to say.  It depends...


COLMES:  What would you do?  Charge them with...

SMITH:  We'll here's the thing.  I think, for example, if you're convicted of drunk driving, you have to go to good drivers school.  And I think...


SMITH:  ... if you demonstrate that you are irresponsible parent and your...


SMITH:  ... some private sector...


SMITH:  You always want the government, Alan.

COLMES:  No, I don't always want the government.  You want the government if the wrong places. 

Mel, I don't know what you do if you're going to blame the parents, you send them to parenting school and the government pays for it?  The taxpayer going to pay to make those kids' parents better parents.  And that's going to solve the problem, right? 

And that keg of beer, by the way, if it's the parents who supply the keg of beer, and here's where Mark might have a point, if that beer was supplied by a parent, would then the parents be culpable?

SACHS:  Alan, there's responsibility there, but it's civil responsibility.


COLMES:  What if the keg of beers are supplied by the parents?

SACHS:  If supplied by the parents, then civilly there could be limited liability.  Because there isn't any criminal liability here. 


COLMES:  If a parent is involved with an activity that enables a child to do underaged drinking, in that case, shouldn't parent have more than civil culpability?

SACHS:  No, I don't believe so.

COLMES:  If that drinking leads to assault?

SACHS:  If -- but it has to be shown that it definitely does.

COLMES:  If the keg is supplied by the parent, the drinking causes the action, and the action is assault, wouldn't that prove that the parents are culpable in that case?

SACHS:  The relationship between two individuals with regard to criminal culpability shouldn't be parent and child.  It should be the same as the law recognizes individuals.  If somebody is involved as an accomplice or aiding and abetting...

HANNITY:  Guys, we've got to run.  Mel, good to see you. 

Click here to order last night's entire transcript.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2003 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2003 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.