BELFAST, Maine — Medway businessman James B. Lee, who is awaiting trial on a charge of manslaughter, was returned to jail Thursday because the state was unable to complete his bail violation hearing before the close of the court’s business day.
Lee, 44, has been held at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since he was arrested two weeks ago for violating bail conditions imposed after a Sept. 28, 2008, motor vehicle accident in Waldo County that claimed the life of his employee.
Under the conditions of his $50,000 pre-conviction bail, Lee was forbidden from driving or operating construction equipment. He allegedly was seen driving a road grader for his family’s company, Emory Lee & Sons, in East Millinocket on Oct. 16.
Lee had been free on bail since the accident that claimed the life of William Russell, 28, of Medway. Russell was one of three men riding with Lee after having completed a construction job in Belfast. William York, 28, of Medway suffered a broken back in the crash, and Chad Brackett, 31, of Medway suffered cuts and bruises. Lee broke his collarbone. Police estimated Lee’s pickup truck was traveling 74 mph when it left the road.
Conflicting testimony was heard by Waldo County Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm during Thursday’s hearing. After recessing for the day, Hjelm said he would try to continue the hearing sometime next week. Lee will remain in custody in the meantime.
According to testimony given Thursday, the East Millinocket Police Department charged Lee with violating his bail after Barbara Gail Skipper of East Millinocket told police that she had seen Lee driving the grader on Hathaway Road.
Skipper testified that she was taking her grandchildren to a birthday party at the Snow Rovers Snowmobile Club that Friday afternoon when she saw a road grader heading in her direction. She said she recognized Lee’s stepson Ryan standing beside the driver, but the driver’s features were obscured because his left arm was shielding his face. While making her return trip, however, she recognized the driver as Lee.
“Jimmy was driving; Ryan was still standing by the doorway,” Skipper testified.
Skipper said she knew Lee was out on bail and called Russell’s mother, Donna, to determine whether the conditions against driving were still in place. Donna Russell called the East Millinocket police while Skipper drove to the station to file her complaint.
Officer Warren Brown testified that when he turned onto Hathaway Road, he observed the grader with “a young fella” behind the wheel and James Lee standing behind him near his left shoulder.
Patrolman Cameron McDunnah said that when he arrived a few minutes later he saw James Lee standing beside the grader and Ryan sitting in the cab. The grader was parked at the time. McDunnah said that when he informed Lee of the complaint, Lee denied driving the grader.
“He told me he was not driving, but that he was standing on the side telling his son Ryan what to do,” McDunnah testified.
McDunnah said he then drove to the police station with Lee and called Penobscot County District Attorney Christopher Almy and explained the situation. McDunnah said that when he informed Almy that Skipper was prepared to file a complaint, Almy told him to arrest Lee.
Skipper, Brown and McDunnah were the only witnesses called before Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau rested his case and the hearing was recessed. Defense attorneys Marvin Glazier of Bangor and Jed Davis of Augusta never had time to present their case, but informed Justice Hjelm they planned to call about a half-dozen witnesses. All the potential witnesses had been sequestered outside the courtroom.