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Grottoes operator gets probation on weapons charge

May 21, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

The operator of Crystal Grottoes in Boonsboro was sentenced Monday to spend two years on probation on a weapons charge.

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley ordered Gerald Edward Downs II, 46, to abstain from alcohol for one year or face a two-year prison sentence.

Downs previously pleaded guilty to transporting a handgun in a vehicle in connection with a June 5 incident in which he was driving a farm tractor on Md. 34.

Police said they found two loaded guns when they searched the tractor.

Police went to Downs' home at 19835 Old Shepherdstown Pike after receiving a report of an armed man riding a farm tractor in an intoxicated state, reports said.

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Downs apologized in court for telling authorities that he had not been drinking that night when in fact he had "a couple of beers."

"I'm trying to do the best I can," Downs said.

"You have to seriously look at your alcohol usage. There is alcoholism in your family," Beachley told him.

Beachley said he granted probation because Downs has had no brushes with the law since he's been running Crystal Grottoes. He has been taking care of the 250-million-year-old cave since his grandfather died 20 years ago.

Beachley also ordered Downs to take an anger management class.

A separate case, in which Downs was charged with assaulting his brother, was placed on an inactive court docket.

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