Charges dropped against Stanford University Prof. Burnett
Last Thanksgiving weekend, Stanford University Engineering Professor Bill Burnett and his wife Cynthia were charged with 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor with fines totaling $110 thousand despite the fact he had communicated broadly before the party that alcohol wasn’t permitted.
It was one of the biggest stories of the year for those of us who cover the underage drinking beat. This week, almost six months after Burnett was arrested, handcuffed and placed in jail, the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office says they have dropped the charges due to a lack of evidence of any wrong-doing by either of the Burnetts.
We wonder, doesn’t District Attorney Stephen M. Wagstaffe owe the Burnetts an apology?
The arrests brought the Burnetts to unwelcome national attention. Professor Burnett, who is also Executive Director of the Stanford Design Program, is an accomplished engineer, teacher and thought leader. Excerpted from his bio on D2M’s website,
“Bill Burnett is currently a Senior Technical Fellow and Board member at D2M. He served as its General Manger and President from 1996 to 2005. He…has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award-winning Apple PowerBooks to the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures. He holds eleven utility patents, with 5 others pending, and multiple design patents for his work with D2M clients… At Stanford he directs the undergraduate and graduate program in Design at and teaches classes at the The Hasso Plattner Institute, also known as the d.school.”
The Burnetts have always maintained their innocence but run a web search for “Professor Bill Burnett'” and articles about the arrests predominate. They have been excoriated in the press and, even today, public comments on the news articles criticize the Burnetts for throwing a party for their son and the San Meteo District Attorney’s office for dropping the charges. After six months of negative national publicity and humiliating allegations, doesn’t the District Attorney’s office owe this law-abiding couple an apology?