A 35-year-old Northeast Baltimore man won't have any beer during the holidays and will have to spend perhaps 96 hours picking up beer cans, but that's better than the 10-year prison term he could have received for obstructing a railroad track.
Yesterday, Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. William Hinkel offered those conditions to Joseph Edward Megee Jr. as part of a probation before judgment on a lesser charge of reckless endangerment.
Mass Transit Administration (MTA) police answering a 6 p.m. call Aug. 1 saw Mr. Megee, of the 600 block of Southeast Ave., put a beer can on the light rail tracks over Lake Roland, according to a statement of facts.
MTA has received numerous calls about people putting objects on the tracks in that area, said Assistant State's Attorney Sue Hazlett. Although these people may just want to see what happens to the can, an engineer who sees an object on the track will brake to remove it, she said. A train traveling at more than 40 mph could derail or injure passengers in a sudden stop.
Reckless endangerment, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, doesn't require any intent to do harm.
Mr. Megee, a carpenter with telecommunications expertise from six years in the Navy, told the judge, "I didn't realize the danger of it, and I definitely learned not to try anything that ridiculous again."
Judge Hinkel, apparently convinced that alcohol fueled the prank, ordered Mr. Megee to abstain and attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during the one-year probation. Mr. Megee will have no criminal record if he complies and performs 96 hours of community service.