LEWISTON — Allegations of a hate crime against a lesbian by five young men turned out to be a different story after an investigation by the Lewiston Police Department.

Janelle Lynn Martel, 28, of 94 Warren Ave., was formally charged Wednesday with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and driving to endanger, following an altercation with five juveniles just before 7 p.m. on Oct. 25 on Forest Street.

The juveniles are not being named because they are minors.

Lewiston police Lt. Michael McGonagle said the incident stemmed from a case of road rage.

“The incident escalated,” McGonagle said, “and there is probable cause to believe that Ms. Martel operated her vehicle in such a way as to create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to the occupants of the other vehicle.”

He said the incident was an example of how giving in to anger does not resolve an irritating situation. “Driving angrily and recklessly is dangerous to everyone around you,” he said.


He said “inappropriate words” were exchanged during the incident.

“As a result, this investigation is being forwarded to the Maine Attorney General’s Office for review,” the lieutenant said. “They will determine if there was a hate crime.”

The incident initially sparked outrage across social media the day after as Martel’s partner, Lizzy Snyder, reached out to news outlets with her story.

“She’s a young gay woman who was followed by five young men, ripped out of the car and beaten,” Snyder told the Sun Journal via message. She said the youths yelled an anti-gay slur at her partner. “This story needs to be told — bigotry is alive and well in Lewiston, and justice needs to prevail.”

Snyder said Martel was hospitalized with a fractured rib from the incident. Police records indicate no emergency medical services were called to the scene.

Friends of the couple took Snyder’s message and shared it on their Facebook pages as WGME and WJBQ reported on the incident.


In an interview with WGME, Martel said, “I was just mortified, scared.”

She told WGME that the boys were taunting her from their vehicle. When they both pulled over, Martel said that was when she was attacked.

“One of the kids punches me in the face and keeps screaming at me that he’s going to rip my piercings out,” Martel said.

She told WGME the boys used anti-gay slurs while kicking and punching her and her vehicle, saying she and Snyder were “emotionally scarred.”

While Martel and Snyder were telling their story, the Lewiston Police Department was poring over eyewitness testimonies and street cameras, which led to a different conclusion.

One of the witnesses, Malia Pizzo, was home when she heard the scuffle in the street.


“So, they were yelling at each other and it caught my attention because she’s saying, ‘Let me go; let me go,'” Pizzo said.

“One of the boys was stating, ‘We need to call the cops,’ while the other one is saying, ‘I can’t let you go because you’re going to hit me,” Pizzo said, adding that the boys were talking, almost calmly, among themselves as to what to do next.

Pizzo characterized Martel as “out of control.”

“They decide to all jump in their vehicle at the same time,” Pizzo said, adding that she heard the countdown from five. “They let her go and ran to their vehicle and got in. She starts pounding at the window and then they try to drive off, and she threw herself on the rear window.”

Pizzo said the boys got out of their car and yelled at Martel for jumping on it. “She kept screaming, ‘Come at me, bro, hit me — hit me — I dare you!'”

Pizzo said she heard Martel say, “Come on — what, you can’t hit a girl?” using a racial slur.

The screaming continued until officers showed up, Pizzo said.

She said she heard words exchanged from both sides, but that Martel had the edge on volume, continuing to use racial slurs against the three African-American youths who were involved.

Neither Snyder nor Martel could be reached for comment Wednesday night.

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