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ATTORNEY GENERAL WINS CIVIL RIGHTS APPEAL; VANCEBORO MAN TO SERVE 120 DAYS IN JAIL
November 24, 2002
NOVEMBER 20, 2002
CARLOS DIAZ, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that his office won a criminal appeal in a civil rights case brought before Maine's highest court. The criminal defendant, 35-year-old Clay Christensen of Vanceboro, asked the Maine Law Court to overturn his criminal conviction for violating a court order issued under the Maine Civil Rights Act. Instead, in a decision handed down today, the Law Court upheld the criminal conviction. Christensen must now serve the 120-day sentence originally imposed by the trial judge.
Christensen was convicted after a trial in District Court, in which the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated a court order in January of 2001 by harassing a Hispanic man who had recently moved with his family to Vanceboro, Maine. The criminal violation included charging at the man with a snowplow, tailgating his car at high speeds, plowing large piles of snow to block the entrance to his house, and verbally taunting him. In handing down the 120-day jail sentence, trial judge John Romei said, "Racially motivated assaults are extremely disruptive to our society... it diminishes all of us."
The original court order was based on an incident in August of 1999, when Christensen entered the Hispanic man's property, punched him in the face, called him "Puerto Rican trash," and told him to go back to Puerto Rico. Christensen consented to the court order in November of 1999, just two months before he violated it.
Under the Maine Civil Rights Act, the Attorney General may bring a civil lawsuit to obtain a court order against any person who assaults, threatens, or damages the property of another person because of race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. Such court orders typically protect the original victim, and also prohibit any further civil rights violations against others. Violation of a court order issued under the Maine Civil Rights Act is a crime that may be punished by up to one year in jail. Assistant Attorney General Carlos Diaz prosecuted the case at trial and on appeal.