Jury considered charges against 5 others

By Chris Paschenko
The Daily News
Published February 26, 2011

GALVESTON – Records released Friday by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in response to a request filed Feb. 18 revealed new details about an incident resulting in a misdemeanor indictment against an elected county official.

The grand jury that indicted Galveston County Treasurer Kevin Walsh on allegations he provided alcohol to a minor also considered various charges against three other adults and two children involved in a birthday party attended by as many as 20 teenage girls.

Along with Walsh, grand jurors returned a true bill against a 17-year-old girl accused of being in possession of alcohol at the party, according to commission records.

The commission provided the records Friday in response to a request filed by The Daily News under state open records laws about a week before the grand jury convened.

A Class A misdemeanor charge of providing alcohol to a minor won’t be filed against Walsh until next week, Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady said.

The 17-year-old girl, who is from Galveston, faces a Class C misdemeanor, the lowest class of charges by law.

While 17-year-olds are considered adults under some sections of Texas law, the legal drinking age is 21.

An indictment isn’t a guilty verdict. It means the jury heard enough evidence to send the cases to trial.

Walsh’s attorney, Tad Nelson, said he would enter a not guilty plea for his client.

The indictments stemmed from a Jan. 29 birthday party for a teenage girl at a West End beach house. The girl’s mother is the girlfriend of a Galveston police officer, Galveston police said.

The officer, Matt Burus, rented the beach house to host the party attended by perhaps a score of girls, many 15 or 16 years old.

The accusation is that someone provided some number of girls alcohol at the party, which ended about 1 a.m. the next day, Galveston police and the commission said.

It was not clear how alcohol got into the house, but it arrived “unbeknownst” to the adult hosts, police said.

“The officer and his girlfriend, rather than being party poopers, sat on the porch and didn’t micromanage the party,” Galveston police Capt. Jeff Heyse said.

At some point before the party was to break up, Burus noticed a lot of girls going in and out of a bedroom and got suspicious, Heyse said.

He took a look and realized some of the girls had been drinking, “called an immediate, grinding halt to the party,” made sure no one had left, forbade anyone to leave, rounded up the booze and began calling parents, Heyse said.

The officer and his girlfriend were vetted and not billed by the grand jury. Heyse commended Burus for his actions.

The grand jury did not authorize charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor against Walsh’s 15-year-old daughter and another teen, commission records state.

A Daily News employee was among the parents who had a daughter at the party. The employee was subpoenaed but not called to testify in Thursday’s hearing.