December 14, 2017
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Civil rights charge filed against man accused of racial hate crime near Portland school

By Jake Bleiberg, BDN Staff
Updated:
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Maine Attorney General Janet Mills
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PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has filed a civil rights violation charge against a Portland man accused of yelling racial slurs and assaulting a group of Casco Bay High School students.

Portland police arrested Jamie Hoffman, 20, in early February and charged him with a civil rights offense, two counts of assault and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. On Jan. 27, Hoffman allegedly yelled racial slurs at a group of students waiting at a bus stop, assaulted two students who came to their defense and brandished a screwdriver, according to police.

In addition to criminal prosecution brought by the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office, Mills filed a civil complaint Friday against Hoffman, seeking to bar him from going near the students and high school in future.

“People who stand up for the rights of immigrants and people of color should not be subject to threats or acts of violence motivated by the perpetrator’s bias,” Mills, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Hoffman pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, according to the Portland Press Herald. His lawyer, Patrick Gordon, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Before the incident allegedly became violent, Hoffman told the group of students — including ones originally from Mexico, Sudan and the Republic of Congo — that immigrants should go back to their own countries and die, according to the attorney general.

In the criminal matter, Hoffman’s lawyer reportedly argued that the case would involve his client’s right to free speech.

The incident, which happened shortly after President Donald Trump issued a since suspended order temporarily barring resident of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, became politicized even before Portland police arrested Hoffman.

In an open letter to the public school community, Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana noted the “noxious environment in which this deplorable event took place.” And students throughout the district organized a solidarity rally in support of their classmates at Casco Bay.

The Maine Republican Party then accused Botana of using public resources to force his “partisan agenda” on students and teachers. The state GOP filed a public records request for the superintendent’s communications, saying that they will reveal “outside and internal forces” that may be influencing his “political agenda.”

 


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