AUBURN — A Turner man accused of ramming another man's car and yelling homosexual slurs has been indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury.
Ronald Champagne, 50, was indicted on charges of reckless conduct and violating conditions of release the same day a judge signed a civil rights injunction against him.
Champagne faces up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine if found guilty of violating the Maine Civil Rights Act by threatening or assaulting any protected person.
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin told Justice Kennedy last week that evidence showed Champagne used violence against Paul Groleau, 60, of Greene.
"Mr. Champagne's conversations with responding officers seemed to have showed somewhat of an obsession or fixation on the Auburn causeway and the 'queers' that frequent there," Robbin told the court. She said Groleau was simply "in the wrong place at the time."
Groleau testified that on the night of March 22, he was driving home from his maintenance job at Central Maine Community College when he pulled into the Lake Auburn causeway on Route 4 to take care of bottles that were rolling around in the back of his Subaru Forester. A moment later, Champagne pulled in with his Cadillac and began yelling homosexual slurs, Groleau said.
"I'm going to ram your ass right into the lake!" Champagne yelled, according to Groleau's testimony. The Cadillac made a U-turn as if to follow through on the threat.
"I assumed he was serious and took off because I didn't want to get rammed," Groleau said in court. He headed for downtown Auburn as he called police for help. The Cadillac followed.
Groleau said his car was hit twice as he raced down Center Street, first inbound toward Auburn and later, after turning around during the chase, as he headed toward Turner. One of the collisions knocked the phone out of Groleau's hand, forcing him to call police a second time.
After the second impact, the Cadillac sped away. Groleau, who was unhurt, stopped at a car dealership parking lot and waited for police. During the chase, he had managed to get the first four numbers of the Cadillac's license plate.
The numbers led Androscoggin County Sheriff's Deputy Travis Lovering to Champagne.
Only one day earlier, Champagne had complained about the causeway and referred to it with an anti-gay slur, Lovering testified. The slur came up again the following night as Lovering questioned Champagne at his home.
Under the Maine Civil Rights Act, the Maine Attorney General’s Office can obtain injunctions against individuals who use physical force or violence or the threat of physical force or violence motivated by bias against race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical or mental disability.
Champagne is awaiting trial.