After charges dropped, Oak Creek Town Board member remains committed to serving

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Bernie Gagne Jr.

— With the dismissal of hate crime charges, an Oak Creek Town Board member said he remains committed to serving the residents of South Routt County.

“I was the victim of a false accusation,” Bernard “Bernie” Gagne Jr. said in a written statement Thursday. “Not just any accusation, but that of racism. It is such an easy accusation to make, but one of the most horrible accusations that can be brought against someone, especially when it is not at all true.”

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office arrested Gagne on Sept. 24, and he subsequently was charged with four crimes: Class 5 felony bias-motivated crime, misdemeanor bias-motivated crime, misdemeanor third-degree assault and misdemeanor menacing.

Gagne pleaded guilty to a single count of misdemeanor harassment and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, 48 hours of community service and $567 in fines and court costs.

“At great personal expense, I had to hire a lawyer and investigator to interview witnesses and acquaintances,” Gagne wrote. “This investigation revealed that I have never been involved in racist behavior, and that I in fact have many friends and acquaintances who are black. Once the District Attorney had more than just the accusation, the charges were dropped accordingly. I am relieved at the final outcome, but I believe that the original charges should never have been brought in the first place.”

Routt County District Attorney Brett Barkey was out of town and not available for comment Thursday.

Gagne was represented by Steamboat Springs attorney Kris Hammond. Hammond also was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

According to an affidavit filed with the Routt County Court, a woman contacted the Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 17 and said her 17-year-old grandson had been assaulted by Gagne on Sept. 1. The teen told deputies he was leaving the Select Super Market in Oak Creek when Gagne stopped him and started threatening him, the affidavit states.

The teen alleged racial threats. Gagne then punched the teen in the face, the affidavit states. Gagne later apologized to the teen and shook his hand.

Gagne recalled the incident differently.

“I got into an altercation with a local teenager. ... He was extremely insolent, defiant and taunting towards me. I lost my temper, and I was wrong. I have never denied the altercation, and had I been charged with harassment in the first place, I would have accepted that charge accordingly.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

What was always the weird part of the accusation was that somehow the victim took over two weeks to decide he was the victim of a hate crime. That is normally the type of thing that the victim feels immediately. Not something that is discovered in a couple of week.

Sure seems like sloppy investigative work to have charged so many crimes and then let them all get dismissed and accept a minor charge which he never denied. How does the Sheriff's dept and DA file such charges and then accept they don't have even enough of a case to go to trial?

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bill schurman 1 year, 7 months ago

File first, think later (+ it doesn't hurt to have a good lawyer).

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

"Hate crimes" are really THOUGHT crimes and, as such, have no place in America's legal/criminal system. Crime is crime; a persons THOUGHTS at that time are largely undeterminable and highly irrelevant.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

It makes sense to recognize hate crimes because otherwise crimes that display hate and are intended to be very intimidating can have minimal punishment. Such as using bleach to write KKK in a person's lawn is otherwise just a very minor vandalism charge.

But that means that the charge of hate crime should only be made when the hatred is directed at the victim because of the accused's hatred of a general group.

The charge of hate crime should not be made when it appears to be a common enough incident that happens to be between people of different races.

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mark hartless 1 year, 7 months ago

The solution is that vandalism should not be "minor". That's the problem with the bleeding heart left; first they take away severe punishment in a broad sense, then they replace it with far too narrow laws designed to "engineer" society. If a black man who "hates all crackers" kills a white guy in East St Louis tonight he will likely NOT be charged with a "hate" crime.

Hate crimes are thought crimes and thoughts should not be crimes.

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Cresean Sterne 1 year, 7 months ago

Racism is still very rampid in this world on all forms of race, culture and religion. Being of a mixed race myself I unfortunately can undestand what it feels like to be a victim of racism. It one of the most hurtful things a person can go through but a hate crime can ruin your life. It was hard for me to believe that Bernie had been a victim of this after knowing him for some time. I am extremely glad that our justice system saw Bernie innocent. Although there is obviously no excuse for giving the smackdown on a minor (even though it sounds like he may have desreved it), we are glad to see that you hung in there and and can get back to normalizing your life. From what I understand this is not the first time this kid has been in trouble. A few weeks back, I heard that my neighbor had an altercation where the police got involved after a car accident. I heard the racism card was pulled out on that one as well.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Cresean,

As I heard the incident that happened next to my building, the "victim" in Bernie's incident lost control on a snowy day and hit a parked car and then tried to drive away, but was stopped by a neighbor. The police were called and then the victim made accusations of racism.

Racism does exist, but the charge of racism should be reserved to when there is racism, not as a general excuse for a person's problems dealing with the world.

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Cresean Sterne 1 year, 7 months ago

I believe Bernie had his altercation by the super market. The one a few weeks ago which did involve a car accident was at my neighbors home off of williams and sharp. I am just glad that Bernie can start to put this unfortunate inncident behind him. He his a great part of this community.

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