HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Hopewell man is headed to jail for climbing a fence at Richmond International Raceway during a NASCAR race in September.
A judge found James Dennis guilty on Thursday of being drunk in public and disorderly conduct and sentenced him to a year in jail with all but one month suspended. He was also ordered to pay a $100 fine on each of the counts. But according to Dennis' lawyer Virginia law will allow him to serve half that time because the charge is a misdemeanor. That means Dennis will spend 15 days in jail served on the weekends.
Dennis scaled the fence overarching the track and sat atop during the September NASCAR race, as race cars sped below. An officer testified the 53-year-old was drunk and told them he climbed the fence because it was his birthday and he wanted to stop the race and be on TV.
NBC12 caught up with Dennis before he headed into the courtroom on Thursday. "I'm putting it in the Lord's hands man," he said. "Some people have too much fun and this is a prime example and let that be the example I set. This is what we should not do."
Dennis managed to reach the fence, because the nearest security guard was responding to a fight and had her back turned.
"This guy just bolted up the fence quickly like a monkey,"
at the time. "The police officer wasn't far from him…He had just turned his head to look the other way, for just a brief second. And (Dennis) just shimmied up the fence so quick."
Dennis raised his hands while sitting on the fence, then pulled something white out of his pocket. The caution flag went up and officials called for all the race cars to slow down. Dennis climbed back down after several minutes of prodding from responding officers. At the time, Dennis said he was trying to get a
"It was one of those crazy spur of the moment things I should have never did and more or less ashamed of myself for doing," said Dennis after his arrest. He claimed he wasn't drunk, but admitted to having four or five beers. An officer testified she could smell alcohol on his breath and he was having trouble walking straight.
Dennis never got that photo of his favorite driver, because he actually forgot his phone. He says he's an Army veteran and used to repel out of helicopters, so he wasn't afraid.
RIR gave this statement:
"We're pleased with today's outcome. We take the safety of our guests and competitors very seriously. We want our guests to come and have a good experience and not insert themselves into the competition or put themselves or the competitors at risk. Hopefully this serves as a reminder to our fans the importance of being respectful of the competition and those who are here to enjoy our events."