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No jail time for Fulton man in second Earth Treks sex case

The second of two former climbing coaches at Earth Treks charged with having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl will not spend any time behind bars.

Daniel Lloyd Montague, 20, who worked at the Columbia location, pleaded guilty Tuesday, Dec. 6, in Howard County Circuit Court to one count of committing an unnatural or perverted practice. The Fulton resident admitted to receiving oral sex from the girl, who was a member of the competitive climbing team.

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"The bottom line is this was poor judgment on my part. We should've never done what we did," Montague, who was 19 at the time, told the court.

Judge Richard S. Bernhardt sentenced Montague to 18 months in jail, with all of that jail time suspended. Montague will be put on probation for two years, must complete 100 hours of community service, cannot have any contact with the girl and no unsupervised contact with any female under the age of 16, and is not allowed in or near any Earth Treks facility. He will not be required to register as a sex offender.

Montague can seek for his sentence to be changed to "probation before judgment" in June, the judge said.

Bernhardt said that there is no "one size fits all" approach for cases, contrasting the case against Montague with that of Michael J. Lyons, a 31-year-old Rockville man and former head climbing coach at Earth Treks. Lyons, who also worked at the Columbia facility, pleaded guilty last week to having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl, who was the victim in both cases and has since turned 15.

Bernhardt was not the judge in the Lyons case.

Lyons is an adult "in all senses of the word," was in a supervisory role, had sexual intercourse with the girl multiple times and used his position to violate the trust of the victim and the law, Bernhardt said.

"That does not appear to be the case with Mr. Montague," said the judge, who found that Montague did not abuse his role as an instructor, gain the victim's trust and then manipulate the victim.

"The facts are not as egregious as they are in the other case. That's not to say they're not serious or saddening," Bernhardt said.

Montague resigned and Lyons was fired following their arrests, which were less than two weeks apart.

Montague was arrested in July and was facing four counts of committing an unnatural or perverted practice and four counts of fourth-degree sex offenses. He was accused of having sexual contact with the girl on four occasions between March and June 2011, with all of those encounters occurring at the girl's house and not at any of Earth Treks' three locations.

Montague's attorney, Jonathan Scott Smith, portrayed the victim as a provocateur and said that the girl's statements to police showed her to have sought and initiated a sexual relationship with Montague. Smith also said that Montague ended the encounters, which the girl wanted to continue.

Smith said police had started investigating Montague after the mother of another girl — a friend of the victim's who also attended Earth Treks — had found a piece of paper with a list of sexual acts on it. The victim and her friend would sign their initials on the paper once those acts were accomplished, Smith said.

The Columbia Flier does not identify victims of sex crimes.

Two mothers of women Montague's age testified as character witnesses, saying they had never seen or heard anything inappropriate from him. They would still be comfortable to have him around their daughters, they said.

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Michael J. Stutz, a Rockville clinical psychologist who has been seeing Montague since shortly after his arrest, described the case as "a classic situation of a bad thing happening to good people.

"I think he's in this predicament more because he didn't want to hurt this young woman's feelings. He didn't want to pursue her in any way," Stutz said. "He was not comfortable asserting himself, and it's cost him dearly."

Prosecutor Susan Weinstein defended the victim against the manner in which her role was portrayed.

"The fact is, she was 14. She is a child," Weinstein said. "The court of law doesn't hold her responsible. It holds him responsible. He's the adult and should've known better."

Bernhardt agreed.

"I don't think it's fair to place the blame on the 14-year-old," he said, noting that this generation of kids faces a flurry of information and images telling them to do something inappropriate. Though Montague was 19, that is old enough to be in the military, sign contracts and go to college, the judge said.

"Being 19 is not an explanation," Bernhardt said. "Whenever you indulge the impermissible thoughts of a child, you hurt the child."

As for Lyons, his sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 3. Prosecutors in his case recommended he be sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but eight years of that sentence suspended, be on probation for five years after his release and register as a sex offender.

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