FORT KENT, Maine — The Maine Attorney General’s Office is investigating a possible hate crime in which a foreign student attending the University of Maine at Fort Kent allegedly was threatened on Facebook.
The office has filed a civil rights complaint in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou seeking a permanent injunction preventing the suspect, Patrick Mitchell, 21, of Bradley, from contacting or harassing the alleged victim.
The complaint, filed on Dec. 7, alleges that on or about Sept. 20, the male victim posted a message on a UMFK student’s Facebook page asking about possible guitar lessons.
Mitchell, who is an acquaintance of the student, saw the Facebook post and then allegedly sent a racially charged threat to the victim through the online social network.
The defendant is not a student at UMFK.
The complaint quotes Mitchell’s message to the victim as saying, “Get a (expletive) life and stop stalking her if I could I would put a bullet in ur (expletive) head!”
The female student, according to the complaint, has indicated she is not Mitchell’s girlfriend, nor is she being stalked by the victim.
The complaint states that on or about Oct. 30, the victim reported the threat to Ray Phinney, UMFK assistant dean of student life and development, who was able to get the defendant’s contact information at his mother’s residence from the female student.
Phinney then called the number provided and, according to the complaint, could hear Mitchell in the background making a racially charged comment.
Mitchell since has been indicted in Bangor District Court on unrelated charges and remains in Penobscot County Jail.
On Thursday afternoon Phinney said his office began working with local law enforcement as soon as the victim at UMFK reported the incident to him.
“We have been working with the police this whole incident,” Phinney said. “We were working to get [the defendant’s] whereabouts.”
On Thursday, Fort Kent Chief of Police Kenneth Michaud said his department’s investigation lead him to forward his report to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, where it could be treated as a violation of the state’s civil right act, or a hate crime.
“We looked at first at an assault charge on the guy,” Michaud said. “But we wrote it up as a hate crime.”
Under Maine’s civil rights law, an individual has the right to “engage in lawful activities without being subject to physical force of violence, the threat of physical force or violence, property damage or threat of property damage, motivated by reason of race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation.”
Leanne Robbin, assistant attorney general with the criminal division, said Thursday that office has filed a motion of preliminary injunction against the defendant to protect the safety and health of the victim.
“This kind of conduct is a gesture of violence against a whole class and race of people,” Robbin said. “Because of the nature of the violation we want to get something in place to protect the victim.”
Robbin said she was unsure if Mitchell had received a copy of the complaint as of Thursday afternoon.
Once he does, she said, he has 21 days to file his own written response or contact her office to resolve the matter outside of the courts.
The motion for preliminary injunction, Robbin said, goes into effect as soon as it is delivered to the defendant.
Officials at the university are taking the matter very seriously, they said.
“The university prides itself on welcoming students from a variety of national and ethnic backgrounds,” President Wilson Hess said in a prepared statement. “Our campus and the community we reside in abhor the alleged behaviors and will actively support investigations or inquiry related to any such behavior directed at our students.”
Mitchell is being held in Penobscot County Jail after being indicted on Nov. 30 by a Penobscot County grand jury on charges of domestic violence assault, assault, criminal mischief, stealing drugs and obstructing of report of crime or injury.
According to court documents, the charges stem from incidents that occurred in Bradley on Oct. 27 and Oct. 31 when he allegedly assaulted his mother and a friend with whom he had been living and stole prescription drugs from his mother.
He was on probation at the time.
Previous convictions led to an 18-month jail sentence in February 2010 for aggravated assault and a 30-day jail sentence from December 2009 for domestic violence assault. He also has convictions dating back to 2008 for theft, bail violations and being a minor in possession of liquor and tobacco, according to published reports.
In July 2008, Mitchell was arrested for robbery, assault, refusing to submit to arrest and terrorizing after he and a 16-year-old friend apparently attacked a taxicab driver and took his phone.
More recently, in January 2010, Mitchell was one of two people arrested in connection with an incident in which a shovel and pipe reportedly were used to assault an Old Town man. The man needed stitches to stop the bleeding.