Court seeks justification for unusual hate crime order
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dec. 24, 2017
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine's high court this week ordered a lower court to explain why potential jail time for any future hate crimes he might commit would be justified for a Turner man convicted of twice ramming into the car of a man he believed was gay.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday ordered the Androscoggin County Superior Court to provide clear reasoning for issuing the "very broad and permanent injunction" against Ronald Champagne.
According to a court order filed in January, authorities say that Turner resident Champagne yelled a gay slur at a man at a boat launch on Lake Auburn in March 2012. He then told the man he would ram his car into the lake before twice driving into the back of the man's Subaru.
Last year, Champagne 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 Bangor Daily News previously reported.
The attorney general's office also brought a civil rights case against Champagne under the state's civil rights act. The office has argued for a court order warning that Champagne could face up to one year in jail if he commits future hate crimes against any group protected under Maine's hate crimes law.
But Champagne's attorney Donald Hornblower said the court's order should limit Champagne only from threatening or using violence against individuals because of their sexual orientation.
"I pointed out it was overbroad and there was no evidence supporting" the order, Hornblower said. "A lifetime injunction against all these classes, it's a very severe thing."
In the Tuesday opinion, the Supreme Judicial Court justices said that such a comprehensive ban must be based on factual findings and evidence.
"Because the court did not make the required factual findings providing the basis for its injunction, we do not have a sufficient record for appellate review," the justices said.
The justices said without such details, they can't decide whether the court abuse its discretion.
The attorney general's office didn't respond to request for comment Friday.