5 sign decrees to not violate civil rights act

Posted Aug. 21, 2008, at 10:25 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:20 a.m.

The Washington County Superior Court has ordered four men and a juvenile to stay away from five Passamaquoddy youths from Indian Township and to refrain from violating the Maine Civil Rights Act, Attorney General Steven Rowe announced Thursday in a press release.

The court order stems from an incident in the Washington County town of Baileyville that happened last year.

Named in the order are: David Townsend, 22, Nicholas James, 19, Adam Casey, 25, and Sean MacArthur, 21, all of Baileyville.

Although the juvenile was not named by the AG’s office, Corey Townsend, 17, of Baileyville was tried in June as an adult in 4th District Court in Calais in connection with the incident.

He was found not guilty on aggravated assault charges, but was convicted of a lesser charge of assault. He also was found guilty on a criminal threatening charge, but was found not guilty on the disorderly conduct charge.

First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said Thursday that Corey Townsend has appealed his conviction to Washington County Superior Court.

Charges against the other four are pending, Cavanaugh said. They are expected to appear in Washington County Superior Court in October.

The defendants consented to the court order by signing consent decrees. But under the decrees, the defendants did not admit to committing the threats or assaults or otherwise violating the Maine Civil Rights Act, the release said.

Under the order, any future violations of the Maine Civil Rights Act by the defendants will be prosecutable as a Class D crime, punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

The order prohibits them from having any contact with the five victims named in the order and from committing civil rights violations against any person based on race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation.

The issue of alleged racism smacked this town of nearly 1,600 residents squarely in its face last year when the four men and the juvenile allegedly threatened violence and assaulted five American Indian males ages 13, 14, 15, 16 and 20. The victims were not named in the press release the AG’s office issued on Thursday.

The arrests stemmed from an Aug. 19, 2007, incident on Broadway Street in Baileyville after two tribal members were attacked and beaten up. When police arrived, they found that one of the Passamaquoddy youths had bruises, cuts and swelling on his arm and injuries to his head.

According to the complaint, the defendants drove up to the victims and emerged from their cars armed with two-by-fours, sticks and pipes. The complaint goes on to allege that Nicholas James yelled, “Come on, let’s get the Indians.” The other defendants also directed anti-American Indian epithets at the victims, the release said.

The state asserted that the juvenile defendant and James assaulted the 14-year-old victim by punching and kicking him, while Adam Casey, David Townsend and others physically blocked anyone attempting to assist him. Sean MacArthur was alleged to have pursued the 20-year-old victim and assaulted him with a stick, the release said.

Police believe the tensions started because of racial remarks — including name-calling — made on an Internet social networking site.

Tensions spilled over to the next night, when around 50 people from Indian Township arrived in Baileyville. Police ordered them home and they left without incident.

“Racially motivated acts of violence tear at the fabric of our communities. No person should be afraid to walk the streets of our cities and towns. Maine is a place where every person has the right to feel safe,” Rowe said in the release.

Baileyville Police Chief Phil Harriman said Thursday there had not been any other racially motivated incidents in the town. “My recollection is we haven’t had any more complaints since these individuals were charged,” he said.

Harriman praised his police officers for diffusing a tense situation and following through with the charges. Harriman said such behavior would not be tolerated in Baileyville.

“This is what we are expected to do and it is what we are going to do whenever a situation raises its ugly head, no matter which side it happens to be on,” the chief said. “In this case it happened to be Woodland [Baileyville] boys against Native Americans.” Had it been reversed, Harriman added, the police would have handled the case exactly the same way.

Indian Township Tribal Chief Billy Nicholas said Thursday he was pleased with the way the case was handled.

“Obviously the Baileyville Police Department did its job moving forward and making sure that all aspects of the original complaint was looked at,” Nicholas said. “The final decision of the Superior Court was clear that there won’t be any tolerance for any more discrimination.”

Nicholas said he did not see the case as a town-related racism issue. “I see this as an isolated incident and I wouldn’t tie it to the hips of Baileyville residents,” he said.

The Maine Civil Rights Act protects all people from violence and threats of violence based on bias against their race and ethnic origin. In the release, the Attorney General’s Office thanked the Baileyville Police Department for its investigation of the allegations and its referral to the Attorney General for enforcement under the Maine Civil Rights Act.

bdncalais@verizon.net

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