Letter from the victim of Alex Gray, Owner of Waterfront Concerts
Note: Below is an open letter to Portland, Maine's City Manager, Jon Jennings, from Erica Cole. The City of Portland recently renewed a contract with Waterfront Concerts, a company owned and operated by Alex Gray, who plead guilty to domestic violence against the author. Alex Gray is still currently living under conditions set forth by the state during his deferred disposition of his plea related to this case.
Dear Mr. Jennings,
I am writing to you as a former citizen of Portland. I had to move to out of the beautiful city of Portland, where I’ve lived for ten years, to Boston. I moved because a man whom you’ve chosen to do business with assaulted me. My name is Erica Cole, former girlfriend and domestic violence victim of Alex Gray, Owner and President of Waterfront Concerts.
Last month, based on the information in your memo, Portland City Council voted unanimously to resume business with Waterfront Concerts. City Council had previously chosen to not renew their contract two months after Alex’s arrest for domestic violence assault—coincidentally when the story was plastered all over the news.
I appreciate the enthusiasm to continually collect new business, large and small, into our community. My concern is that city council members wholly ignored the fact that Waterfront Concerts President, Owner, and Operator, Alex Gray, pleaded guilty to domestic violence less than six months ago, and is currently living under conditions set forth by the state.
I'm sure that you are aware that the city of Bangor signed a ten-year deal with Waterfront Concerts before Alex’s scheduled trial and is now considering an additional extension. I’m assuming they were blinded by the $25 Million that the company generated in 2016 and, collectively, $106 Million since 2010.
The Bangor City Council members couldn’t say no to the money and are now expressing queasiness over the renewal of the contract. Council Chair Ben Sprague publicly gave Gray back his small campaign donation, denouncing his behavior, but now just months later is seemingly his biggest champion in City Hall. How convenient it must be to have morals that come and go with the tide of public backlash.
Mr. Jennings, you were quoted in the Portland Press Herald saying: “The City [of Portland] netted $54,000 on the concert series last year, and [Alex Gray] also reimburses the cost of city staff.” I ask that you reassess the strong values of our community and consider the 13,437 people last year who used services by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. Even with a low crime rate, Maine ranks 9th nationally in rate of women killed by men.
In the courtroom, Alex stated “we fundamentally disagree what’s on the police report”. After pleading guilty in court, Alex proceeded to defend his innocence outside of the courthouse, saying: “If I hit someone's head five-to-ten times, I would not be here for a deferred dismissal, I’d be here for a murder charge.” The truth is that I didn’t even write my own statement. A Portland police officer recorded a statement on my behalf, as I shook uncontrollably on a hospital bed.
The officer took my statement at Maine Medical Center, where an ambulance brought me by request of the police and paramedics. According to the police report, they were concerned of a “closed head injury, and a fractured jaw” after observing redness and swelling to the right side of my head. Since being assaulted, I’ve undergone dental work on my right side because of my now offset bite. My dental work, along with my ambulance and emergency room bills, still weigh on me financially as I write this letter.
I spent weeks after the assault homeless, washing my one outfit and only pair of underwear in a sink. I slept on a couch for seven months, unable to provide myself with even the necessities. Over the past year, I've started from scratch to rebuild a life, and I'm proud of everything I've accomplished in that time.
The physical injuries have healed, but the emotional trauma will long be something I need to overcome. I never imagined that one day something like a slamming door could cause me to collapse to the floor in a panic attack—terrified—hardly able to breathe through my sobbing. My ego doesn't want me to admit these things, but it’s important for you to hear them.
As part of his plea deal, Alex has to abide by twenty-two conditions until returning to court later this year. One of the requirements of his agreement was the delivery of my belongings still in his possession. He was allotted 60 days to give me my belongings back—in addition to the seven months that I had gone without them.
This means I was left without basic items like my clothing and my computer that contained my life's work and source of my income. When I finally received my password-protected computer back, it had been wiped clean of any documents not deemed appropriate by my abuser.
I wish that I could share with you the true extent of what I've endured both leading up to, and after, this criminal case. I fear more attempts by my abuser to legally and financially exhaust me, so I'm careful only to mention things already included in public records.
I’m writing to you in hopes that you’ll find some understanding in whom you’ve selected to conduct business with. By continuing to do business with Alex Gray and his companies, you are sending a message that domestic violence is acceptable in Portland. You are also setting an example for young men and women that—in the city of Portland—money trumps morality.
I’m asking you to reconsider your decision to continue doing business with Alex Gray and Waterfront Concerts. I hope that one day I feel safe moving back to the city I love and make a life knowing that our community does not tolerate domestic violence.