Rockville Man Held in Slippery Sabotage of Highway Exit Ramp

By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 15, 2009

Be careful driving toward the Maryland State Police barracks in Rockville. If the radar gun doesn't get you, the oil slick might.

State police said yesterday that a Rockville man's apparent vendetta against law enforcement might have caused several accidents in Montgomery County, including two involving police cruisers. An officer spotted the man Friday -- for the second time -- dumping oil on a hairpin highway exit ramp off Interstate 270, less than a mile from the barracks, police said.

In recent months, accidents have followed sudden appearances of oil and paint on the loop-shaped offramp from northbound I-270 toward westbound Montrose Road, police said. The ramp leads to the state police barracks, a county police station and the county's jail.

State police said they suspect that behind it all was Jonathan Crane, 34, a Rockville information technology consultant and former mechanic who found himself on the receiving end of a series of traffic tickets and a drunken driving charge last year.

"This, well, it's strange," said Lt. Clifford Hughes, commander of the Rockville state police barracks. "He's way above retaliation."

In October, after Crane had been ticketed six times in the preceding six months, he was charged with spreading oil on the ramp -- the exact spot where he received a $130 ticket in August for failing to control his speed.

At about 12:40 a.m. Friday, he was walking along the ramp with a container of chain oil when a Montgomery County officer drove by.

According to state police, the officer found a second container of chain oil farther down the ramp. Officers found Crane's 1989 Mercedes parked in the bushes. On the bumper, they said, was a splash of green paint that resembled a concrete sealer recently found on the ramp.

Samples were sent to the state police forensics lab, and Crane was charged with assault, reckless endangerment and dumping a hazardous substance on a highway.

Yesterday, he remained in the county jail awaiting a bond hearing tomorrow.

Crane's attorney, David Grover, declined to comment on the latest round of charges, saying he had not spoken with his client. Grover described Crane as a "very intelligent person." Of the repeat charge of dumping oil on a highway, Grover said, "it's different."

Crane, who owns a $400,000 condominium in the 600 block of Ivy League Lane, accepted a deal last month to settle charges stemming from the Oct. 1 incident. He pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and was placed on probation for two years. Prosecutors dropped charges of dumping a hazardous material that could endanger others and maliciously destroying property.

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