Ex-Central High principal says seizure caused him to crash, leave scene

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 12, 2013, at 4:02 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Former Central High School Principal Garry Spencer pleaded guilty Monday at the Penobscot Judicial center to leaving the scene of an accident as part of a plea agreement with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office.

Bangor attorney Jeffrey Silverstein entered the guilty plea on Spencer’s behalf. Spencer, 56, did not appear in court but later said during a telephone interview that he made “a terrible, terrible mistake” the day of the crash.

Silverstein said in court that Spencer suffered from a seizure before crashing into two parked cars, walking home and reporting his car stolen.

Spencer will serve no jail time, but was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. The charge of filing a false report was dismissed as part of the agreement.

On May 5, Spencer was driving his car when he struck two parked cars on Lincoln Street in Old Town. He hit a Chevrolet Cavalier hard enough to push it into a parked Dodge Charger. The Charger was pushed sideways by 2 feet, according to David Bishop, who owns both vehicles, which were parked at his residence.

Spencer then drove his damaged vehicle a short distance before abandoning it and walking home. He then reported it stolen, according to Old Town police Capt. Kyle Smart.

An insurance investigator found a witness who said Spencer was behind the wheel of the damaged vehicle. A week later, Spencer admitted to driving the car at the time of the crash and filing the false report. He originally told police that he was working in his yard and left his keys in his car. He said he later noticed it was missing.

Silverstein told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray that Spencer saw his doctor, who recommended a series of tests.

“Neurologists discovered he had suffered a stroke,” Silverstein said outside the courthouse. “He was diagnosed as having suffered a seizure [at the time of the crash] that was related to stroke or diabetic issues he was having. That contributed to a state of disorientation.”

Silverstein said Spencer didn’t remember being in the crash, which is unusual because “no rational individual who is oriented would not have known that they were involved in some significant motor vehicle incident.”

The incident was “well out of character for him,” Silverstein told the judge.

“I remember waking up behind the wheel with the car full of smoke and my foot still on the accelerator,” Spencer said in a telephone interview later Monday. “I cannot tell you to this day which house it was or the color of the vehicle I hit. I didn’t know that [I hit one vehicle into another vehicle]. I instinctively jammed it into reverse and drove off. It was like a dream. I still think of it often.”

He said he was on his way to have dinner with his pregnant daughter at the time of the crash.

“I was admiring a house on the corner and put on my left blinker. That’s the last thing I remember [before crashing],” he said. “I hope nobody else ever has to go through that.”

Despite the seizure, Spencer should have filed an accident report, said Silverstein.

“The law says that if you’re in an accident, it must be reported. He’s guilty of that,” he said.

Because of the seizure, Spencer said he wasn’t thinking straight.

“That was a terrible, terrible mistake and a misjudgment on my part,” Spencer said of initially reporting his car stolen after the crash. “If I would’ve just sat there in my car and called police to say I was in an accident, I would’ve been fine. When you’re disoriented that much, you really don’t think straight. There are no excuses [however], I did what I did. I’m a golfer and I wish I had a mulligan. I wish I could do it over again.”

Corinth-area RSU 64 Superintendent Daniel Higgins placed Spencer on paid administrative leave after launching an investigation into his actions.

Spencer submitted a letter of resignation to Higgins on July 9, with an effective date of July 26. His salary was $78,589.

Spencer cited personal and medical reasons for his resignation.

“He resigned from his work due to his medical issues. It was recommended [because] his position as principal was very stressful,” Silverstein said.

Spencer said he’s now taking medication so his medical condition is no longer an issue. He said he wants to work again.

Spencer had been the principal at Central High School in Corinth since 2004. He served as assistant principal from 2001 to 2004.

Before that, he spent his career involved in Old Town athletics, according to previous BDN reports.

He was the athletic director for Old Town High School for seven years before leaving in 2001. He was the high school girls varsity basketball coach for 14 years before stepping down in 1999.

Spencer served as head coach of Old Town High’s football team for two years and was the assistant coach for 15 years.

He faced up to six months in jail for the Class E charge of leaving the scene of an accident. The Class D crime of filing a false report is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/12/news/bangor/former-central-high-principal-pleads-guilty-to-leaving-the-scene-of-an-accident/ printed on July 28, 2014