BANGOR, Maine — A Medway man facing trial for a fatal 2008 truck accident was temporarily released on $2,000 bail Monday afternoon after an initial appearance in 3rd District Court on an alleged bail violation.
James Bryant Lee, 44, had been confined at Penobscot County Jail in Bangor since his arrest Friday, after a witness reported he had been driving a road grader during the weekend.
Other release conditions imposed Monday by Judge Jesse Gunther included a 7 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew, that he have no contact with witnesses and that he not drive any form of motorized vehicle on a public way. His arraignment on the bail violation charge is set for Nov. 4 in Millinocket.
But Lee was out of jail for only a few hours before he turned himself in to police at 6:30 p.m. at the East Millinocket Public Safety Building for a warrant issued out of Waldo County Superior Court revoking his bail in connection with the same driving incident.
While Lee was making his initial appearance in Bangor on Monday afternoon, Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau was pursuing the bail revocation, East Millinocket police officer Cameron McDunnah said Monday night.
Lee was brought to Penobscot County Jail at 8:15 p.m., a jail official confirmed. McDunnah said Lee must be held until he appears before a judge. He didn’t know when that might be.
The former Medway selectman with a long history of driving violations has not been allowed to drive since he was released on $50,000 bail after being charged last December with manslaughter and aggravated driving to endanger in connection with an accident Sept. 22, 2008.
Passenger William Russell, 28, of Medway died instantly when Lee’s pickup slammed into two trees in the Waldo County town of Monroe and rolled over. Two other passengers were injured in the accident.
William York, now 38, of Medway suffered a broken back, and Chad Brackett, now 31, also of Medway, suffered cuts to his right arm. Lee had a broken collarbone.
Lee’s arrest Friday was prompted by reports that he had been seen operating heavy machinery in East Millinocket.
Lee’s construction company was grading a dirt portion of Hathaway Road when witnesses reported seeing Lee operate the grader at about 3 p.m. Friday. One of them called Donna Russell, William Russell’s mother, and reported what she saw. She encouraged the witness to call the police, which the witness did.
When confronted by an East Millinocket police officer, Lee denied driving the grader, saying his son, Brian, was driving, according to East Millinocket Police Chief Garold Cramp.
Lee remained silent during his brief court appearance Monday. Immediately afterward, he was whisked back to a District Court holding area and then back to the county jail for his release.
Lee’s attorney, Marvin Glazier of Bangor, said Monday he had no statements to make on his client’s behalf. Asked whether Lee’s wife had any comment, Glazier said, “I doubt it.”
York, who also attended Monday’s proceedings along with his wife, Amy, expressed frustration over what he saw as a lack of repercussion with regard to Lee and his alleged flouting of bail conditions.
“This $2,000 is just pocket change,” he said in an interview outside the court building. “I really think it’s a joke. I don’t see no remorse, none at all.
“When you can’t do stuff with your kids it’s pretty hard,” said York, the father of three children ages 13 to 17. “William — he won’t be able to do anything with his kids.”
York, who is still recovering from the injuries he suffered, said he reported to police in August that he saw Lee driving.
“Jimmy was on his [cell] phone. He looked right at me,” York said. He said police were not able to catch up with Lee.
He also said Lee had operated heavy machinery at the mulch pile at Earth Grow in Medway over the winter as well.
According to the police accident report, Lee’s 2004 Chevy Silverado was traveling about 74 mph when it went off a curving rural road in Monroe that had a posted speed limit of 45 mph. Lee’s driving record shows 36 traffic violations from 1986 to 2008, including 25 for speeding.
If found guilty of the manslaughter and reckless driving charges, Lee could face up to 35 years in prison.
In Lee’s defense, 32 letters were written describing his character in glowing terms or citing his civic service as a business owner or 10-year member of the Board of Selectmen. The letters described him as a hard-working, caring man who grieved deeply about the accident.
Lee, who expressed remorse for the accident in court, has declined to comment further since the accident occurred.