One of Maine’s most prominent businessmen has been indicted on criminal charges in connection with the firing of a small cannon that injured a referee at a Maine Maritime Academy football game in September.
Peter Vigue, 72, has been charged with Class B aggravated assault, Class C reckless conduct with a firearm, both felonies, and Class E discharging a firearm on school property, a misdemeanor, according to the indictment a Hancock County grand jury handed down Thursday.
Vigue, the former CEO of Cianbro Corp. and chairman of the Pittsfield-based construction company’s board of directors, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the aggravated assault charge.
Founded in 1949 by the Cianchette Brothers, Cianbro is one of the United States’ largest employee-owned construction companies.
Vigue began working for Cianbro as a laborer in 1970, gradually working his way up through the ranks until he was named CEO of Pittsfield-based company in 2000. He held the position until 2018, when he stepped down and was replaced by his son. Vigue remains chairman of Cianbro’s board of directors, a post he has held since 2008.
Vigue, who lives in Pittsfield, did not return a phone call Thursday evening, and could not be reached for comment. It could not be determined whether he will be represented by an attorney in the pending criminal matter.
A Maine Maritime alumnus, Vigue fired a small cannon during a football game at the academy in Castine on Sept. 21, authorities said. The blast from outside an end zone fence after the home team scored a touchdown discharged material that struck a referee in the face, News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ) reported.
In a video that captured the incident, the referee can be seen walking along the back of the end zone when he is engulfed by a small cloud of smoke. The referee collapsed as several onlookers and referees rush to his aide. The referee was transported to a local hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
The severity of his injuries are unknown.
The cannon had been loaded with black powder and a substance that had been made into a wad, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.
It was tradition for a cannon to be fired after MMA scored a touchdown. but the firing of cannons and other similar devices was banned by the academy’s president following the accident.
Unguarded comments like these have been a source of humiliation, sometimes with huge political fallout.
They have also shone a light into the murky corridors of international diplomacy – for better or worse. Here are five of the most memorable.
1. Ronald Reagan: ‘We begin bombing in five minutes’ (1984)
At the height of the Cold War, US President Ronald Reagan turned up the diplomatic heat with a riff on Soviet Russia.
During a soundcheck before his weekly radio address, Mr Reagan joked with sound engineers who were recording him for NPR radio.
“My fellow Americans,” the president said. “I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
The tongue-in-cheek remarks were not broadcast live, but a recording was later leaked to the public.
As a result, Soviet forces were temporarily put on high alert in the Far East, and the comments drew condemnation from the USSR.
2. Jacques Chirac doesn’t like British or Finnish food (2005)
French President Jacques Chirac caused a stir with culinary comments he allegedly made during a trip to Russia.
According to French newspaper Libération, the veteran politician was speaking to his Russian and German counterparts during an event marking the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad – Russia’s enclave in northern Europe.
Thinking he was off-microphone, Mr Chirac allegedly said of the UK: “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”
“The only thing the British have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease,” he added.
While they didn’t make it to broadcast, the comments were never denied by Mr Chirac’s media team.
It came at a time of cool relations between Britain and France, as the two countries clashed over farming subsidies and France’s decision to abstain from involvement in the Iraq War.
3. ‘Yo Blair!’ (2006)
During a G8 Summit in St Petersburg, a private conversation – later known as “Yo, Blair” – was picked up by a microphone close to US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
During the exchange, Mr Bush appeared to greet his UK counterpart, saying “Yo, Blair, how are you doing?” He went on to thank him for the gift of a sweater, and made derogatory remarks about Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Referring to Syria’s support of Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel, Mr Bush said he he hoped the UN would “get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this…” followed by an expletive.
“Get Kofi [Annan] on the phone with [Bashar] Assad and make something happen,” he added.
Mr Bush’s use of the phrase “Yo Blair” was mocked by political opponents of both leaders. But its veracity has been questioned, with some journalists suggesting that he said “Yeah, Blair”.
The recording nonetheless highlighted the leaders’ close, and often controversial, relationship at the time.
4. Gordon Brown’s ‘bigoted woman’ (2010)
While speaking with members of the public in Rochdale, northern England, Britain’s then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was confronted by a woman who queried levels of immigration.
After their exchange, Mr Brown entered his car with a Sky News microphone still pinned to his clothing.
Not realising the microphone was still on, he told an aide that the conversation “was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman”.
Asked what she had said, he replied: “Ugh, everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous.”
Mr Brown later visited the woman – Gillian Duffy – to apologise, and repeated his apology during an interview on BBC Radio 2.
5. ‘I can’t stand him any more’
A chat between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama was overheard by journalists at a G20 meeting in France.
Shortly before a press conference, reporters were handed translation boxes but were told not to plug their headphones in until the leaders’ backroom conversation had finished.
Several people ignored the instructions and heard Mr Sarkozy talking to Mr Obama about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I can’t stand him any more, he’s a liar,” Mr Sarkozy said.
“You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day,” replied Mr Obama.
For several days there was media silence in France about the exchange, but Dan Israel of the French news website Arret sur Images later broke the story.
The exchange highlighted Israel’s strained relationship with both France and the US at the time.
As public impeachment hearings get underway in Washington, Maine’s junior congressman is under fire from a conservative political action committee targeting a handful of Democrats it sees as vulnerable on the issue.
The fiscally conservative Club for Growth released a digital advertising campaign this week calling the hearings “a distraction from the real issues facing everyday Americans” and urging Mainers to phone 2nd District U.S. Rep. Jared Golden to tell him to stop efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.
Golden, who defeated an incumbent Republican last year, has repeatedly said he is focused on the issues that matter most to Mainers, especially jobs and health care.
“While the investigation continues,” Golden said in a prepared statement, “I will remain committed to the work the people of my state sent me to Congress to do.”
The Club for Growth has endorsed one of Golden’s three Republican challengers, Eric Brakey of Auburn, and poured money into his campaign.
As the public witch hunt begins today, here is the question I will be seeking an answer for:
Why is it not in the national interest to investigate Joe Biden’s corruption in Ukraine?
It lists Golden’s turf as “a top Republican and conservative pick-up opportunity” in next year’s congressional elections because Trump won the district by 10% in 2016.
The Club for Growth cited Golden this week as one of five freshmen lawmakers it hopes to unseat. It named four others earlier.
In the group’s advertisement, it calls the hearings a “sham impeachment” that is evidence that “socialists have driven the Democratic Party over the cliff.”
The House impeachment inquiry got underway after a September a whistleblower report raised the issue of Trump seeking to force the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into a Democratic opponent’s son.
Golden initially steered clear of the issue, but endorsed rules for the inquiry recently after seeing initial evidence that he said was worth investigating.
The other freshmen lawmakers targeted by the group, all Democrats, are Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Ben McAdams of Utah, Abigal Spanberger of Virginia, Xochitl Torres of New Mexico and California’s Katie Porter and Harley Rouda.
Brakey, a former state senator and last year’s unsuccessful GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, faces two challengers in a June primary: Adrienne Bennett of Bangor, who served as press secretary for Gov. Paul LePage, and Dale Crafts of Lisbon, a former legislator.
During Thursday’s White House press briefing—the first in three weeks—Huckabee Sanders was also asked about Trump’s threat to shut down the federal government if Congress doesn’t pay for an expanded wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cecilia Vega: “Sarah, on this threat of the government shutdown if Congress doesn’t secure funding for this wall, how is that not a concession from this White House that Mexico isn’t actually going to pay for this wall and American taxpayers will?”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Again, this is something the President is committed to. He’s committed to protecting American lives. And doing that through the border wall is something that’s important. It’s a priority, and we’re moving forward with it. Noah—”
Cecilia Vega: “But he’s not saying that Mexico is going to pay for it now.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “He hasn’t said they’re not either.”