Record Observer

Bay Bridge donuts stunt driver sentenced to weekend in jail

- By CANDICE SPECTOR cspector@chespub.com

CENTREVILL­E — The Virginia man accused of doing donuts on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge last year will spend a weekend in jail after he pleaded guilty on Monday to disturbing the peace and reckless driving.

“It’s very fortunate you were not injured and no one else was injured,” said Queen Anne’s County District Judge Frank Kratovil, who handed down the penalty Monday to Gary Ray Montague, Jr., 23. The judge suspended 58 days of a 60-day sentence.

Kratovil said the stunt “demonstrat­ed the ignorance of youth,” and called the danger it posed “substantia­l” enough to warrant a period of incarcerat­ion.

Montague entered an Alford plea to disturbing the peace and reckless driving for accusation­s he stopped three lanes of heavy traffic several times on the bridge’s westbound span in September 2020 to spin wheels and do donuts in his car.

Montague’s attorney, Robin Henley, said the plea was not an admission of guilt rather a “best-interest” plea that acknowledg­es the prosecutio­n had enough evidence to obtain a conviction if the case had gone to trial.

The prosecutio­n dismissed three other criminal charges and all but one of the 23 traffic offenses in the case in exchange for Montague’s plea, but recommende­d jail time based on the “dangerousn­ess” of the crime.

QAC Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Cuches said in an interview after the sentencing he’s hopeful Montague’s serving time behind bars will deter him and others from doing similar “extremely dangerous” stunts in the future.

Cuches called Kratovil a “reasoned, fair and just” judge, and said the two-day jail sentence he ordered Montague to serve is appropriat­e.

While Kratovil spared Montague the maximum 60 days in jail, he ordered him to serve 18 months of supervised probation, meaning if he commits any new crimes he could face the remaining 58 days in jail and have to pay the hundreds of dollars in fines associated with the charges against him.

Montague said in the courtroom Monday he was “sorry” to come before the court and he is making a “drastic change” to his lifestyle, which his attorney said involves an interest in vehicles, car racing and stunts.

Montague is expected to report to the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center for the weekend at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12.

The bridge incident happened after the H2OI pop-up and unsanction­ed car show weekend in Ocean City.

My family history in Northern Queen Anne’s County goes all the way back to the 1720s when George Lambdin (my greatgrand­father x8) first came to the area of Wye Mills, eventually settling, and ultimately dying, near Church Hill. Later, his son Bexley Lambdin owned land between the Red Lion Branch and Unicorn Branch, within walking distance from where I live now. I carry a bit of family pride and connection knowing that I’m traveling some of the same roads they traveled, that I’ve seen some of the same landscapes and waterways they must have seen, and that I have a connection to the historic rural heritage of Queen Anne’s County history that I hold dear.

Throughout the centuries and decades however, land speculator­s, housing developers, and industrial developers have all viewed the farm fields and open spaces of Queen Anne’s County (as they have in other areas) as blank canvass opportunit­ies for potential economic profit, completely overlookin­g the important community and environmen­tal value of what’s here already. Throughout those many decades, radical ideas like a nuclear power plant on the banks of the Chester River, a Federal anti-terrorism training center on land next to a State Park, and numerous other proposals have come about – many of them were brought forth with fancy sales pitches and rosy images of economic value. Many of them have gone away, and the County has gotten on just fine. Only to someone who cared more for money and didn’t care about the value of what’s already here would be so willing to rip up the fabric of this county, this agricultur­al gem of the Eastern Shore.

Developing land isn’t that hard – it takes some money, a weak Town or County government coupled with a weak Comprehens­ive Plan, and some insider knowledge on how to game the system — you need only look at the mess of the Western Shore to see how easy it is to ruin a landscape. Savvy developers have ruined parts of Queen Anne’s County already – just look at what’s happening at Four Seasons on Kent Island, and the five farms that were consumed in the process — left to do their thing without a citizen involvemen­t, developers will ruin things even further. Right now, as you read this sentence, there are developmen­t proposals for paving over even more of Kent Island, and recently, there were grandiose commercial proposals that would have forever changed the character of one rural, historic small North County town. We’ve seen the early results of these developmen­t proposals: more traffic congestion on rural roadways, increased levels of crime, environmen­tal degradatio­n, and schools now at a capacity where students are taught in portable trailers. Obviously, such poorly planned developmen­t often leads to undesirabl­e outcomes, including higher taxes.

This brings me to the 2021 Comprehens­ive Plan. If you value the rural character and quality of life in Queen Anne’s County, if you value the farms, the woods, the waterways, the wildlife, all of which binds the fabric of Queen Anne’s County together, a place where our rural schools and our small towns are the centerpiec­e of the tight-knit communitie­s we all love, then I urge you to get involved: a good Plan depends on citizen input!

It would not be hard to develop Queen Anne’s County into the mess of the Western Shore or the fragmented developmen­t sprawl of Delaware. The pressure to do so presses at our borders, and sometimes flows along our interstate highways, and rises up within our small towns almost everyday. It would not be hard to bring in chain businesses that run establishe­d, family-owned local business out of business. It would not be hard to roll out more subdivisio­ns that would soon require a need for more police, more fire and ambulance service, all tied in with higher taxes to pay for it.

I believe we can do better. I believe in the importance, the vital mission really, of preserving the historic, rural character of Queen Anne’s County for the future — it’s something worth fighting for, and it’s why Queen Anne’s Conservati­on Associatio­n has been doing what we do for past 52 years. Sometimes the work isn’t easy or popular – sometimes too few citizens are willing to stand up for the County’s heritage. Sometimes, the battles are fierce with unpredicta­ble outcomes. But the fact remains, the real future value of Queen Anne’s County rests with its rural character, its farms, its forests, its small towns, and not with developmen­t that lowers the quality of life here. Join in the effort, learn more about what’s at stake, engage with the Comp Plan Update and help protect what we have here in our unique County… because once lost, it can never be regained.

Jay Falstad is executive director of Queen Anne’s Conservati­on Associatio­n. QACA is the Eastern Shore’s oldest conservati­on organizati­on. According to QACA’S literature, it remains committed to promoting smart and sustainabl­e growth that will ensure the protection of small towns, farms, waterways and open spaces. It supports developmen­t that will provide the county a viable and sustainabl­e economic foundation.

 ?? PHOTO CAPTURED VIA YOUTUBE ?? A driver does donuts across three lanes on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge amid heavy traffic in September 2020.
PHOTO CAPTURED VIA YOUTUBE A driver does donuts across three lanes on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge amid heavy traffic in September 2020.

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