Man who erected a giant wooden penis on his lawn fights to keep it up
Montreal-born Jamie Gagne charged with displaying offensive sexual material
Jamie Gagne insists it was his wife's idea to carve a giant wooden penis with a chainsaw and erect it on their front lawn, but he'll gladly fight for it in a court of law.
The Montreal-born man says he first crafted the 2.1-metre tall "anatomically correct" statue in June to protest the bureaucratic red tape that was preventing him from getting a permit to complete a shed outside his home in Wilton, N.Y.
"[The town] stopped communicating with me, so I was getting a little frustrated, and I kind of wanted to draw their attention and kind of brute force a conversation," Gagne told As It Happens host Carol Off.
But instead, he ended up in conversation with a pair of state troopers who arrested him on a charge of displaying offensive sexual material. He pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday, and is fighting to have the charges dismissed.
New York State Police confirmed the arrest and said it came after Gagnewas given a warning to remove the statue from public view. The Town of Wilton did not respond to a request for comment.
Gagne, a woodworker and a carpenter by trade, says he's quite proud of his penis, which he describes as having the "the proper mushroom curvature on the tip" and "balls [that] are properly sack-like."
"It's my first chainsaw carving, actually," he said. "I don't know. It kind of came naturally."
While it began as an act of defiance against the town, Gagne later turned the penis on his neighbour — literally.
"The neighbour that had recently moved ... was making a lot of complaints, basically reporting every activity that I was doing to the town, and he's got a camera set up, pointed at my house," he said.
"It was getting really irritating, so I pointed it directly at his front door to kind of send the message to stop being a jerk."
When is a penis art?
At first, Gagnesays he didn't have much trouble over the statue. He says most of his neighbours love his giant penis, and folks would often stop to take pictures of it.
A state trooper even visited his property to have a gander at it, and told him it wouldn't be a problem so long as nobody complained.
"He also did mentioned that if it was not erect, it would have been art, but an erect penis is not art," he said. "That didn't make any sense to me. So I did think it was interesting that he mentioned this and he knew so much about penis art."
Police did not confirm this exchange.
Eventually, someone did complain, and two officers showed up to his door, this time to arrest him.
"I asked to go grab my shoes, and the officers told me that [they'd] have to come inside the house with me because I was currently detained," he said.
"I didn't feel like inviting them into my home, so I just actually got booked and handcuffed and brought down to the station in bare feet."
The charge, displaying offensive sexual material, is a misdemeanour that could come with a jail term of up to one year, probation of three years, and a fine.
"This is trying to protect the issue of potential exploitation in a sexual manner, particularly as it relates to protecting children," Karen Heggen, Saratoga County district attorney, told NBC affiliate wnyt.com.
Gagne appeared in court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. He plans to fight the charge.
"My lawyer is pretty confident that the law doesn't even apply, that this is very clearly a First Amendment case, First Amendment protected product of freedom of speech and free expression," he said.
In the meantime, he's moved the penis to his backyard.
"Really, I just want to finish building my workshop. This is my primary goal," he said.
"But if I win in court, I will put it back up. And once my workshop is complete, I will either auction it off or perhaps rent it to other disgruntled residents who have shown interest in borrowing it."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Jamie Gagne produced by Chris Harbord.