The Turner man convicted in 2016 of ramming the car of a man he thought was gay now contends that the court order warning him not to violate any part of the Maine Civil Rights Act is too broad.
On Tuesday, Ronald Champagne’s attorney, Donald Hornblower of Lewiston argued before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that the order should be limited to hate crimes against gay men and lesbians, not against other groups protected by the statute.
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, whose office enforces the law, countered, “This law protects the public from bias-motivated violence, and it works. Of the more than 300 orders issued, there have only been nine violations.”
Champagne, 56, has never violated his order, Robbin said.
According to Robbin, her office routinely includes every class covered by the law in every injunction, in part, because 20 percent of hate crimes targeted more than one protected category.
The Civil Rights Act defines a hate crime as one that manifests evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, mental disability or physical disability. For Robbin’s office to seek an injunction in a civil procedure, a bias-motivated crime must have involved physical force or violence against a person; the threat of physical force or violence against a person; damage or destruction of property, or trespassing.
The law, passed in 1989, allows the attorney general’s office to seek a permanent restraining order against anyone charged with a crime motivated by bias.
In 2012, Turner rammed a car at the Auburn boat ramp. Four years later he pleaded no contest to reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 18 months in prison with all but 14 days suspended and a year of probation. The month after Turner entered his plea, Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy presided over a trial to determine whether a permanent injunction should be imposed.
The justices’ questions Tuesday focused on whether the order is too broad and a lifetime injunction is too long.
“Your client egregiously and violently attacked someone for his perceived sexual orientation,” Justice Andrew Mead said. “Don’t we need a broad order because a judge does not know if the defendant is anti-Semitic or not? Why not cast a broad net? There’s nothing in the law that precludes it.”
Hornblower replied, “There’s also nothing in the law that requires that injunctions [be so broad].”
Justice Ellen Gorman observed that “a lifetime of anything is left for our most heinous acts and is a rarely used disposition. Does your office discuss whether the injunction should be for a lifetime?”
Robbin said that such a discussion typically occurs only when a teenager or an immature young adult is guilty of a hate crime.
“The law protects the public from bias-motivated violence,” she said. “The court ordered [Champagne] to obey the existing law. That’s not a tall order.”