A Presque Isle man who was convicted of drug charges after a traffic stop in January 2019 is appealing his conviction, arguing that the U.S. District Court did not fully consider a pattern of racial profiling by his arresting officer.

Maine State Police Trooper John Darcy stopped Damon Fagan, a Black man, shortly after 11 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2019. Darcy told the court Fagan cut off a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95 and made “an unsafe lane change.” The state trooper interrogated Fagan and called for a K-9 to search his car, in which nothing was found. Fagan, however, later admitted to possessing heroin and was charged with possession with intent to distribute.

Seven months after Fagan’s arrest, Darcy, who is white, was recorded telling another officer that he targeted a driver for a traffic stop because he looked like a “thug” and suspected he was involved in drug-related activity.


Darcy’s traffic stops have raised questions in at least eight other cases, according to Fagan’s defense attorney.

Two cases have been dismissed, with one federal judge saying Darcy is “not a very credible witness.” A lawyer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that he’s unaware of any active cases in which his office is using Darcy as a witness.


“We do believe that Mr. Darcy has a history and pattern of engaging in conduct such as this,” Noreen McCarthy, Fagan’s appeals attorney, said during oral arguments to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on Tuesday. “Tracking and targeting Black motorists on I-95, stopping them for no reason and then lying about it. That’s a demonstrated pattern at this point.”

McCarthy argued that U.S. District Judge Brock Hornby, who accepted a conditional plea from Fagan in August 2021, erred when he rejected motions to prevent federal prosecutors from using the heroin as evidence in his trial. McCarthy said Hornby did not fully consider that August 2019 recording.

Hornby referenced a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says officers can stop any vehicle as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that a traffic violation occurred.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not argue Darcy is a credible witness. Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Block defended Hornby’s ruling, saying that a reasonable officer in the same position also could have viewed Fagan’s lane change as “unsafe,” because he did not use his turn signal before switching lanes.

“At the end of the day, the question is: Is there evidence of a reasonable, articulable suspicion that an unsafe traffic maneuver took place?” Block said. “Here, the District Court made its factual finding that, based on the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer in Trooper Darcy’s situation could’ve had reasonable suspicion to believe that that lane change was unsafe.”

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has no deadline to issue its ruling on Fagan’s appeal.


A spokesperson for the Maine State Police confirmed Darcy still works for the agency. He is assigned to Troop A out of Alfred and was promoted to corporal.

In the August 2019 recording, Darcy referred to the man he would later pull over as a “thug,” pointing out his “dreads” and “wifebeater” tank top. Federal prosecutors later dismissed charges against that man, Terrel Walker.

In December 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed drug charges against Alexis Boyd, the passenger in a car that Darcy had stopped on I-95 in June 2019 for an alleged traffic violation. U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen threw out the drug evidence after ruling Darcy was not a credible witness based on the August 2019 recording and a dash-camera recording of Boyd’s arrest, which contradicted statements Darcy told the court.


Col. John Cote, who was then the chief of Maine State Police, announced in July 2021 that an “extensive,” monthslong internal investigation involving the Maine Attorney General’s Office offered “no evidence of any pattern of targeting of motorists based on race, or any other trait common to a protected group.”

Maine State Police have denied that any racial profiling or pretextual stops occur.


“The investigation which included the examination of over 1,000 of Cpl. Darcy’s traffic stops resulted in zero evidence of any pattern of targeting motorists based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,” Maine State Police spokesperson Shannon Moss said in a statement Tuesday. “Frankly, we find the defense attorney’s remarks in this case to be inaccurate and inflammatory.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine filed a brief in March supporting Fagan’s appeal. Their chief legal counsel, Zachary Heiden, said Tuesday that the Maine State Police’s findings from its internal investigation were “troubling.”

“What’s so important about this case isn’t that this is the only officer who has engaged in racist activity – it’s that he admitted to it, and that was captured in video,” Heiden said. Beyond the courts, he said the ACLU advocates for increased training to prevent further pretextual stops and racial profiling by Maine State Police.

Block also referenced the internal Maine State Police investigation Tuesday.

“Although I think a fair criticism is that Maine State Police’s record keeping, with respect to the race of individuals stopped for traffic violations, may not be as comprehensive as we would like,” Block said.

Last summer, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law that requires Maine law enforcement agencies to track the race of the motorists they stop. The law is supposed to help the state identify and prevent racial profiling.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced earlier this year to reduce traffic stops overall was blocked.

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