It all started as a mundane zoning battle between carpenter Jamie Gagné and his town hall. Gagné wanted to replace his workshop that had burned down the day after Christmas. Building inspectors said he didn’t follow his own plans.
It’s the sort of thing that happens every week in every town and city in America — but only in upstate Wilton, New York, has it turned into an ugly all-out war featuring an illuminated 7-ft carved pine penis.
Now Gagné, 32, faces a year in jail as he has been charged with publicly displaying offensive sexual material for placing his chainsaw sculpture in his front yard.
Some people think he has been treated unfairly— as DailyMail.com interviewed him at the spot where the phallus stood proudly for nine days, several passing cars beeped their horns in support.
Others thinks he deserves all he gets. ‘He’s made a mockery of this town,’ said fellow woodworker Wayne Rhude, whose complaint led to the filing of the misdemeanor criminal charge. ‘He has no respect for his neighbors or the town.’
Carpenter Jamie Gagné, 32, erected a 7ft wooden penis in his front yard in Wilton, New York
He was arrested and charged with publicly displaying offensive sexual material and faces a year in jail
The statue has been taken down and lies in his yard, while the testicles are in place under a sign that reads: ‘Castrated by state police 6/18/2020’
Even the cops tasked with making Gagné remove the penis were in two minds. New York State Trooper John Sorgie, who hauled him off barefoot and in handcuffs, was caught on video saying he thought the phallus was ‘quite funny actually.’
Another cop told Gagné that if his carving had been flaccid, it could have been viewed as art. But as it was erect it had to be considered pornography.
The Battle of not-so-Little Big Horn all started when Gagné was late with his Christmas gifting — he was still finishing handmade bowls on December 26, 2016. He kept the woodstove on so the glue would bond properly. He took a nap and the next thing he knew his shop was up in flames.
‘It was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me,’ he said.
Gagné, who also runs a sensory deprivation flotation center in Albany, designed a new workshop that town officials signed off on. It took him three years but when construction started Wilton building inspector Mark Mykins said he had deviated from the plans.
One of the problems was that the footings had not been inspected prior to the concrete being poured. Gagné said that is because the inspector turned up half-an-hour late and the concrete arrived 15 minutes early.
‘Eventually I just had to get it started. You can’t tell cement to wait,’ he said.
Gagné has been in a zoning battle with his town hall for wanting to replace his workshop that had burned down the day after Christmas
Building inspectors said he didn’t follow his own plans, so he built the penis in retaliation
In October last year the town issued a stop work order, leaving the workshop half-finished
The official court paper complaint against Gagné has been arrested and charged with displaying offensive sexual material for placing a 7-foot pine penis sculpture
‘He’s made a mockery of this town,’ said fellow woodworker Wayne Rhude, whose complaint led to the filing of the misdemeanor criminal charge
In October last year the town issued a stop work order, leaving the workshop half-finished. Gagné didn’t get around to submitting revised plans till February, when, he says, officials insisted on meeting his architect Francis Kramer —who had just been tasked by Governor Andrew Cuomo with finding places to put thousands of hospital beds to cope with the coronavirus pandemic then engulfing the state.
John Parker, the man who filed complaints against his neighbor concerning the noise during the workshop construction, is seen at his home in Wilton, New York
‘Needless to say, he was a bit preoccupied,’ said Gagné.
The COVID-19 crisis continued to affect his plans. Meetings to discuss new plans were canceled. A court appeal against the stop work order could not proceed. Letters to town hall went unanswered.
All this meant he had to keep equipment in his yard and put tarps on one side of his half-finished, galvanized steel workshop, leading to complaints that his property has become an eyesore.
Gagné and his yoga instructor wife Leslie Paddock blame retiree John Parker who built a new house just across the street a couple of years ago for their problems. ‘I had no complaints before that,’ he said. The couple claim Parker has a camera trained 24-hours a day on their property and called 911 to report a bonfire he was having.
Parker told DailyMail.com: ‘I have no argument with Jamie whatsoever. He has connected a lot of dots incorrectly. I’ll leave it at that.’ He referred further comment to his attorney Jeffrey Bagnoli, who did not return calls.
When Gagné sent a letter to 46 neighbors asking for anyone who has complaints to tell him directly, he claims Parker, 72, just forwarded it to town hall.
That was the final straw. Gagné emailed his wife to tell her what happened. Paddock, 32, responded: ‘OK, cool. So a huge d**k sculpture in front yard.’ Her suggestion got Gagné’s creative juices flowing.
Gagné sent a letter to 46 neighbors asking for anyone who has complaints to tell him directly, and he claims Parker, 72, just forwarded it to town hall. Gagné said that was the final straw
Gagné has a court date of September 8, charged with ‘intentionally, knowingly and unlawfully committing the misdemeanor of public display of sexual material
Gagné picked out a dying pine tree and found a couple of logs that made perfect testicles and started work with his chainsaw
Gagné’s’ unfinished workshop is pictured. ‘If they’d just let me finish my workshop, I could put everything inside and everyone would be happy,’ he said
He picked out a dying pine tree and found a couple of logs that made perfect testicles and started work with his chainsaw. Where did he get his inspiration? ‘Let’s just say I didn’t use anyone else as a model,’ he said.
When the phallus was fully erected, Parker told Mykins in an email that Gagné ‘has put an awful lot of time and effort into being a jerk.’
Mykins wrote back saying that Gagné is ‘doing everything to aggravate his neighbors,’ but said the town could do nothing to remove his work as he considered it ‘artistic expression.’
But Wayne Rhude, who lives less than a quarter mile from Gagné thought differently. He decided to make a complaint to police saying the carving was indecent. ‘You have young kids on the street going by, seeing this thing,’ he told DailyMail.com.
Rhude, 67, said even before the statue went up on June 9, Gagné’s property was a mess. ‘It’s a pigsty,’ he said. ‘I drive past it every day and it’s an eyesore and a half.
‘He has noise blasting from his property at all hours and so much crap going up the hill.
‘I realize not everyone is going to have a well-manicured lawn and a nice little garden, but the least you can do is clean it up and make it tidy.’
Officer Sorgie and his colleague turned up at 8:30 am on June 18. ‘Two things are going to happen today,’ the troopers told Gagné. The penis had to come down then and there and he was going to be arrested.
When he said he needed to go inside to get some shoes, the officers said they would have to accompany him as he was under arrest. He said he would prefer not to have them in his house and so he went to the police station barefoot.
‘Mugshot, fingerprints, the whole lot,’ Gagné said. ‘At least they were good enough to give me a ride back home.’
Now Gagné has a court date of September 8, charged with ‘intentionally, knowingly and unlawfully committing the misdemeanor of public display of sexual material…that predominantly appeals to prurient interest in sex.’ He could face up to a year in jail — plus a stiff fine.
‘It’s the same statute they’d use if a truck stop didn’t put the plastic cover on the girlie magazines,’ he said. ‘My lawyer says it does not apply to a carved tree.’
Now the 7-ft penis lies forlornly in Gagné’s yard. He’s thinking of auctioning it off. The testicles remain in place under a sign that reads: ‘Castrated by state police 6/18/2020.’
A mural that includes the face of George Floyd is installed outside the home of Gagné
The town has made him move a sign urging drivers to slow down in memory of Shiloh his Shiba Inu that was killed by a car. Despite it being up for eight years the town has only now decided it was on a public right of way
He considered putting it back up and encasing the tip in frosted plexiglass to give the impression it was censored, but took his lawyer’s advice not to antagonize the town further,
He has raised $1,200 via GoFundMe to pay for his lawyer and has put the story of his travails online at WiltonWoody.com.
The Town of Wilton has taken action to try to get him to tidy up. Bureaucrats want him to take down a ‘graffiti canvas’ of an octopus, his wife in a gas mask and police victim George Floyd that he spray-painted outside his house. They say it is illegally attached to a fence. He says there is no fence so it should stay.
They have also made him move a sign urging drivers to slow down in memory of Shiloh his Shiba Inu that was killed by a car. Despite it being up for eight years the town has only now decided it was on a public right of way.
Neither Mykins nor Wilton Town Supervisor John Lant returned DailyMail.com’s calls and emails.
And Gagné insists he really wants to tidy up his yard. ‘Believe me, I hear it every day from my wife. We don’t want to live like this.
‘If they’d just let me finish my workshop, I could put everything inside and everyone would be happy.’