AUBURN — A judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that a preliminary civil rights injunction granted against a Turner man in 2012 would remain in place.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy said Wednesday that the preliminary injunction filed against Ronald Champagne, 55, of Turner would remain while his attorney, Don Hornblower, researches case law supporting his request for a more narrow injunction.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said she would be drafting a proposal for a permanent injunction against Champagne, who was accused of using anti-gay slurs and twice ramming the vehicle of Paul Groleau of Greene on March 22, 2012, at the causeway boat launch on Route 4.

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 a person’s race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, sexual orientation, national origin or physical or mental disability.

The purpose of the hearing Wednesday was to determine if a permanent injunction should be granted against Champagne. Under a permanent injunction, if Champagne were to be charged in the future with a hate crime, he would face harsher penalties if found guilty.

Hornblower requested that the scope of the injunction be limited to sexual orientation and nothing else. He asked Kennedy for four weeks to research case law to support his request.

In June 2012, Kennedy signed a civil rights injunction against Champagne, barring him from having any contact with Groleau.

Police said Champagne targeted Groleau on the night of March 22, 2012, at the causeway boat launch on Route 4.

Police said in court papers Champagne drove up to Groleau’s vehicle in a Cadillac and used homophobic slurs.

Champagne followed Groleau from the lot, and while Groleau was calling 911 on his cellphone to report the incident, Champagne rammed Groleau’s vehicle twice, according to police.

A deputy at the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office later found Champagne and his Cadillac at his Turner home. Damage to the front end of the Cadillac was consistent with the reported ramming of Groleau’s vehicle, according to court papers.

Police added that Champagne “spontaneously made several comments about ‘queers’ and the Auburn Police Department’s problems with them on the causeway.”

Champagne admitted at Wednesday’s bench trial to being at the causeway on March 22, 2012, and to ramming Groleau’s vehicle, but denied that his actions were motivated by a bias against sexual orientation.

He said his actions were motivated by his religious beliefs, and that by visiting the causeway, he was attempting to cleanse it of the “married men who are engaging in homosexual activity with other married men.”

Robbin asked Champagne if he directed homophobic slurs at Groleau at the boat launch. 

“Absolutely not,” Champagne said. “He called me names first.”

Champagne said that he drove by the causeway on the evening of March 22 and saw 10 vehicles parked there, including Groleau’s car.

He said he approached Groleau’s vehicle and asked what he was doing.

“He told me he was texting on his phone or something like that,” Champagne said.

Champagne said he asked Groleau if he was married, to which Groleau said he was.

“After that, he called me (a homophobic slur) and started to drive away,” Champagne said.

Champagne said that in response to Groleau’s homophobic slur, he pushed Groleau’s vehicle out of the causeway parking lot onto Route 4, where he proceeded to chase him toward Auburn.

“I feel really bad about what I did,” he told the court.

Robbin asked Champagne if he used the word “queer” on the evening of March 22, 2012, while being questioned by Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Lovering.

“I do not recall using the word ‘queer,'” he replied.

“Are you saying under oath that you did not use the word ‘queer’ while speaking to Deputy Lovering?” Robbin asked again.

“No, I can’t recall it,” Champagne said. “I don’t have a problem with queers.”

Champagne quickly backtracked and said he meant “homosexuals, or gays,” but Robbin pointed out, “You just used the slur.”

Robbin proceeded to show the court video footage of Champagne saying the word “queer” several times to Lovering while he was being interviewed on the night of March 22, 2012.

Later in the trial, Hornblower asked Champagne to speak about the clientele he serves at his business, Ron’s Car and Truck Service on Auburn Road in Turner.

Champagne said that he treats a wide swath of customers, including disabled veterans, Somali men and women and gay men and women.

He added that many times, he will fix his customers’ vehicles free of charge and take a financial loss because he wants to help people.

Champagne also pointed out that he has a “lesbian sister and a lesbian aunt,” and that his sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous was gay.

“And how do you get along with your sister and aunt?” Hornblower asked.

“I get along good with them,” Champagne replied.

Hornblower also brought forward several witnesses who spoke to the respect Champagne showed toward Somali men and women, disabled people, and men and women of various races and religions.

Hornblower told Kennedy that he was concerned that a permanent injunction filed against Champagne would “encompass all other categories other than sexual orientation, such as nationality, religion, race, sex and people with physical or mental disabilities.”

He reiterated that Champagne’s actions were not motivated by a bias against sexual orientation, but by his religious beliefs.

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