Attorney General Andrew Ketterer announced Thursday that his office was going to include former University of Maine hockey players Shawn Mansoff and Matt Oliver in its civil rights complaint involving racial threats made to a UMaine football player.
In December, the Department of the Attorney General filed a complaint under the Maine Civil Rights Act against former UMaine goalie Bryan Masotta for allegedly leaving a telephone message containing racial slurs and threats to kill Dwayne Wilmot, who is black.
At that time, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Wessler said if his office could identify the other two participants in the call, it would include them in the civil rights case. Wessler said Thursday his office had gathered evidence that left it certain the other participants were Mansoff and Oliver.
“When we filed the complaint, we were looking to see if we could identify with a degree of certainty the other two,” Wessler said. “We are sure enough now we have filed a case [involving] a racially biased threat with Superior Court. Among other evidence, we have people identifying the speakers in the message.”
Mansoff, a sophomore who was suspended from UMaine for a year and from the hockey team indefinitely, said he decided to leave UMaine a few days ago. He is looking into transferring or signing with a minor league hockey team.
Oliver could not be reached for comment.
Mansoff said his reasons for leaving the school came before Ketterer’s decision and had to do with his frustration at waiting to appeal the one-year suspension.
“The faculty haven’t been too nice to me,” Mansoff said. “I’ll miss the hockey. It’s a good program. I never liked the school.”
Mansoff added he was not surprised by the civil rights suit he faced.
“Whatever. I don’t put anything past these guys,” Mansoff said. “This is all silly to me. There is only so much I can do. Like, I wasn’t involved. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t care.”
Last Friday, Judge Jesse Gunther fined Masotta $1,000 at 3rd District Court for criminal threatening, saying the language in the tape used by Masotta, who pleaded no contest, was very serious.
Gunther also questioned why Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts dropped the criminal threatening charges against Mansoff and Oliver. Gunther said the language used by all three participants in the message was among the worst racial language she had heard – especially the comments made by “voice number three,” who, according to the the police, was someone other than Masotta.
In the transcript of the two-minute message, “voice number three” is the only participant who used the racial slur “nigger,” and did so three times.
Wilmot had no reaction to Ketterer’s latest decision, but said there is a lot about the case he doesn’t understand, namely, why the district attorney’s office dropped the charges.
“[Roberts] never contacted me personally and never spoke to me about any decision,” Wilmot said. “I was never interviewed by the district attorney. During the time with the hearing with Bryan Masotta, I spoke with Steve Wessler.”
Wessler said that while Masotta is the only one charged with criminal threatening, all three are equally responsible for breaking the Maine Civil Rights Act.
“As far as I’m concerned, they were all participants in that conversation,” Wessler said. “All bare responsibility for making horrific racially motivated threats.”
While Roberts said the language used by the other two participants did not qualify as criminal threatening, he also said it was racist and that his office believes Mansoff and Oliver were the other participants.
“We are aware of witnesses who have heard the tape and will assert the other voices are of Oliver and Mansoff,” Roberts said when the criminal charges were dropped. “Masotta made a statement where he said it sounds like the voices of Mansoff and Oliver but he is not certain. He does say he was intoxicated at the time and has no recollection of making this call.”
Oliver’s lawyer Dan Pileggi said he was not surprised by the attorney general’s decision but was unaware of any new evidence. Mansoff’s lawyer Joe Ferris said he did not know what evidence the attorney general could have that it did not have three weeks ago.
Wessler explained the investigation came to a halt in December immediately after his office brought the civil rights case against Masotta because the UMaine student body went on Christmas break. Once the students returned to classes last Thursday following the ice storm, the UMaine Public Safety Department was able to expedite its investigation.
“While it looks like it took three-to-four weeks, it was a matter of once we set out to do it, it took a much smaller time,” Wessler said.
Since classes resumed at UMaine, there have been no negative repercussions from the incident for Wilmot, who said people in the UMaine community have been very supportive.
“Really, I’m trying to stay as far removed as possible so I can move on and be a student and athlete – be a regular person,” Wilmot said. “I wasn’t doing interviews before. People recognize me on the street now. It’s not totally normal, but it’s a lot better than it was.”
Wilmot said the phone message that sent him fleeing from his dorm room in fear surprised him because he was not aware of any racist incidents or fights between the football and hockey teams at UMaine prior to the call.
But, Wilmot added it is difficult for him, as a sophomore, to comment on race relations at UMaine.
“I have not had enough of a college experience to base it on. So far, it’s been a friendly place in general,” Wilmot said. “People treat me nice. Barring any unforseen incidents like this, it’s the right place for me.”
The Freeport, N.Y., native added he has no regrets about his decision to attend UMaine.