The Maine Attorney General’s Office has filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Portland man accused of threatening and assaulting a local man who was born in Afghanistan.

The incident happened on Congress Street on Sept. 21, when a city parking attendant placed a ticket on the windshield of an illegally parked car.

The car’s owner, Leslie Holmes, yelled obscenities at the attendant and told him to “go home” to Afghanistan and “leave now,” the complaint says. Holmes also “slapped the ticket against the victim’s chest, pushing the victim backwards,” and tried to spit on the man, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit is the second in Maine since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks raised fears among some people that recent immigrants to the United States and Muslims could be intimidated or harmed because of misplaced anger. The Attorney General’s Office filed a similar suit against a man accused of intimidating the owner of a Pakistani restaurant in Bangor.

“There was an increase (in such incidents) obviously right after Sept. 11,” said Tom Hartnett, assistant attorney general for civil rights education and enforcement. Hartnett said it appears as though tensions have eased in recent weeks, although it’s difficult to tell for sure because not all incidents are reported or lead to legal action.

The lawsuit against Holmes was announced on Monday by Attorney General Steven Rowe. It seeks a court order that would make it a crime for Holmes to violate the Maine Civil Rights Act in the future. The court could fine Holmes as much as $5,000.


Holmes also could face criminal charges for a misdemeanor assault and interfering with the constitutional rights of the parking official.

His lawyer, John Paul DeGrinney, said Monday that Holmes adamantly denies the accusations. He will plead not guilty to criminal charges and looks forward to his day in court. DeGrinney said witnesses also are prepared to testify that Holmes did not assault or threaten the city worker.

Holmes could not be reached for comment. Yasin Ahmady, the parking official, also could not be reached.

Ahmady reported a similar incident to Portland police 10 days earlier. He said he was on Woodmont Street Sept. 11 when a man said “Leave or I will kill you now.” The man denied making the threat. Ahmady did not press charges.

Mohammad Muti, a Portlander and president of the Afghan Association of Maine, said he did not know any details about the Sept. 21 incident. But, he said, Aghan immigrants are feeling more secure in the community than they did just after Sept. 11.

“People are very comfortable . . . “They’re not scared anymore.” he said.


Rowe, the attorney general, said immigrants from Aghanistan came to the United States to avoid persecution and violence. “This nation stands for freedom and justice,” he said. “We must do everything we can to ensure that this remains the case.”

The Maine Civil Rights Act prohibits a person from assaulting or threatening another person because of national origin or ancestry.

The Portland incident may have begun as a dispute over a parking ticket, but clearly turned into a violation of Ahmady’s civil rights, said Assistant Attorney General Carlos Diaz. “What our lawsuit is based on is, not being upset about a parking ticket, but physically and verbally attacking the victim because he is Afghan in origin,” Diaz said. “That’s got nothing to do with the parking ticket.”

Diaz said he will seek a court hearing soon for a preliminary injunction against Holmes to “provide for public safety.” The case would then be scheduled for detailed arguments.

DeGrinney, the lawyer preparing to defend Holmes against criminal charges, said his client is looking forward to defending himself.

“He absolutely insists that he didn’t do this,” DeGrinney said.”

Comments are not available on this story.