AG Brings Civil Rights Case In Portland Threatening Of Somali Taxi Driver

April 1, 2005

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that his office has filed an action under the Maine Civil Rights Act against Garrett Powell, 22, of Portland and Charles Frechette, 23, of Sebago Lake for their threats against a Somali taxicab driver based on their bias against his race, color or national origin. In court papers filed in Superior Court in Portland, the Attorney General asks the court to enjoin Powell and Frechette from having any contact with the victim and from committing future violations of the Maine Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit alleges that on December 14, 2004, shortly after midnight, Frechette and Powell were riding home with three friends in an American Taxi from a Christmas party in the Old Port and stopped at the Big Apple Store at the corner of Park Street and Forest Avenue in Portland. The victim, a taxi driver from Somalia, asked the American Taxi to move so that the victim could maneuver his taxi closer to the air pumps to fill his tires. Powell emerged from the American Taxi, yelled racial epithets, told the victim to go back to his country, and threatened the victim with physical harm. Frechette came out of the Big Apple Store and joined the confrontation, challenging the victim to fight. The lawsuit alleges that Frechette pulled out a knife, used racial epithets and threatened to "cut" the victim. The victim ran into the store and the cashier held the doors closed so that Frechette and Powell could not come after him. The confrontation ended only when the cashier called the police.

"Many immigrants, like this man from Somalia, came to this country to seek sanctuary from the violence in their homelands," said Attorney General Rowe. "We will not tolerate threats of violence to persons of Somali ancestry based on bias against their race, color or national origin."