September 10, 2001

SEPTEMBER 17, 2001

CONTACT: Carlos Diaz, Assistant Attorney General

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that his office has filed a lawsuit under the Maine Civil Rights Act against a Portland man for assaulting and threatening to kill two Portland men because he believed they were gay. The suit alleges that on July 2, 2001, Peter E. Toppi, 45, turned his vehicle sharply to nearly run over two men as they walked arm-in-arm across Franklin Street. The suit further alleges that Toppi then ran up to the two men and assaulted and threatened them while yelling derogatory anti-gay slurs at them. One of the men received injuries requiring medical attention.

The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting Toppi from interfering with any person's right to engage in lawful activities free from physical violence or threats of physical violence motivated by sexual orientation. The Defendant also faces civil penalties of up to $5,000.

Attorney General Rowe said, "Maine must be a place where you can walk safely down the street with the person you love. It is that simple."

The Maine Civil Rights Act authorizes the Attorney General to bring an enforcement action against any person who intentionally interferes with the right of another person to engage in lawful activities free from actual or threatened physical force or violence, property damage, or trespass to property motivated by race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, or physical or mental disability.

The Attorney General expressed his appreciation for the prompt referral of this matter by the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office, which has charged Toppi under the criminal statutes with two counts of assault and one count each of driving to endanger and reckless conduct.