Turner man who allegedly rammed car, yelled homophobic slurs fined for other road rage incident

Posted April 04, 2013, at 6:15 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — A Turner man awaiting trial on charges stemming from an event last year during which police said he rammed another car and yelled homophobic slurs was sentenced Wednesday in an unrelated road rage incident.

Ronald Champagne, 51, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and driving to endanger.

He had entered pleas to aggravated criminal mischief and reckless conduct, both felonies, a year ago in Androscoggin County Superior Court. He was allowed to withdraw those pleas Wednesday.

A county prosecutor said Champagne was charged in a July 12, 2011, incident at Union and Court streets in Auburn.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said police reports describe Champagne engaging in a shouting match with a man driving a car that was in front of his pickup truck. Champagne got out of his truck and punched the driver in the head, police said. The victim moved his car in front of Champagne’s truck to prevent him from leaving the scene. Champagne got out of his truck again and punched the man’s window, police said. Champagne rammed the other driver’s side door, forcing him into the intersection, causing a “significant amount of damage” to the man’s car, Matulis said the police record showed.

Champagne was fined $300 for the assault charge and $575 for the driving to endanger charge. His driver’s license was suspended for 30 days.

He also paid restitution to the victim, Matulis said.

Champagne is scheduled for trial on the May-June calendar on charges of reckless conduct, a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 and violation of condition of release, a misdemeanor.

A judge signed a civil rights injunction against Champagne, barring him from having any contact with Paul Groleau of Greene.

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

Groleau, 61, had pulled his vehicle into the parking lot at about 11 p.m. after leaving his shift at his local job to adjust some items in the back of his vehicle, police said. Champagne drove up to Groleau’s vehicle in a Cadillac and used homophobic slurs, police said in court papers.

Champagne followed Groleau from the lot. Groleau called 911 on his cellphone to report the incident. During the call, Champagne’s Cadillac rammed Groleau’s vehicle twice, causing Groleau to drop his phone on the second collision.

After the second impact, the Cadillac sped away. Groleau, who was unhurt, stopped at a car dealership and waited for police. During the chase, he had seen the first four numbers of the Cadillac’s license plate and recited them 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 who drove Champagne to Androscoggin County Jail said he “spontaneously made several comments about the ‘queers’ and the Auburn Police Department’s problems with them on the causeway. He said he wasn’t about to bring ‘his girl’ to watch the sunset ‘because of all the queers,’” court documents showed.

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