The Maine Attorney General’s Office is filing a civil rights complaint against a Portland man accused of attacking an Asian-American woman and her daughter last week and telling the woman to “go back to your country.”

Troy Sprague, 47, was arrested Saturday on charges of criminal mischief and interfering with constitutional and civil rights. He has been released on bail.

The attorney general’s complaint seeks an order protecting the woman and her family by prohibiting Sprague from having any contact with them and from violating the Maine Civil Rights Act in the future.

“We are bearing witness to an unconscionable increase in hate crimes being perpetrated against individuals of Asian descent in our nation,” Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a news release. “We will not tolerate such attacks in Maine and we will act swiftly to address allegations like those received last week in Portland.

“We encourage any member of Maine’s Asian-American community to contact their local law enforcement agency if they encounter threats or acts of violence or property damage based on bias against their race, ancestry or national origin. We will review all such cases to determine whether they meet the criteria for enforcement under our Civil Rights Act.”

Marpheen Chann, president of the Cambodian Community Association of Maine and an educator at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, applauded the attorney general’s action Monday, though he said there is still work to be done in law enforcement when it comes to recognizing and responding to racism.


“I think it’s a very important statement from AG Frey,” Chann said. “We need to call racism for what it is. It’s racism and this act was a racist act against an Asian-American woman and her daughter while trying to go about their day. I think Attorney General Frey has taken a step in the right direction for calling it what it is and alerting the public that this isn’t acceptable behavior.”

The woman and her daughter were in their car waiting for an oil change at 471 Forest Ave. last week, the complaint states. Sprague was walking along the road when he turned and started swearing at the woman, telling her to “go back to your country” and “you Chinese go back to your country.”

Sprague then jumped over the guardrail separating the sidewalk from the service station and began kicking the woman’s partially opened window. His kicking damaged her rearview mirror, causing debris to fly into her car and hit her daughter.

Police have said Sprague is homeless and it was unclear Monday if he has an attorney.

There is no criminal charge of “hate crime” in Maine statute. A person accused of civil rights violations may be charged for interference with constitutional or civil rights or, in cases where there is an injunction under the Civil Rights Act, for a knowing violation of a civil rights injunction. Both are Class D crimes punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

In addition, any crime may be treated as a hate crime at sentencing if the court finds that the defendant targeted the victim due to the victim’s “race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or homelessness.”

While there is a federal hate crimes statute, it has a higher threshold for bringing prosecution and comes with restrictions on the circumstances under which a case may be brought, such as that the crime resulting in willful bodily injury or attempted bodily injury. There are also certain circumstances pertaining to the federal charge such as if the crime takes place across state lines or involves a weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce.

A recent study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found anti-Asian hate crimes increased 145 percent last year in America’s largest cities, even as overall hate crimes dropped 6 percent.

Last week, in the wake of the killing of eight people, including six Asian-American women, in Georgia, President Biden said he supports the passage of a COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian-American communities.

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