Portland’s “Uncle Sam” is in a jam.

His real name is Adolph Kiper. You may have seen him dressed head-to-toe in red, white and blue around this time of year, drumming up business for a tax preparation service on busy Forest Avenue near Portland’s Woodfords Corner.

But according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, there’s another side to Kiper. And “America the Beautiful” it is not.

“Since the summer of 2013, (Kiper) engaged in threatening and harassing behavior toward the victim,” states a civil complaint filed by Attorney General Janet Mills that is scheduled for a hearing Thursday in Cumberland County Superior Court. “On a number of occasions late at night, (Kiper) banged on the walls separating his apartment from the victim’s apartment, causing such vibration that parts of the ceiling and items on the wall of the victim’s apartment fell to the floor.”

The complaint continues, “On a number of occasions, (Kiper) called the victim (a racial slur) and told him to ‘go back to your country.’ ”

That country is Iraq. The victim is a 35-year-old civil engineer who asked that he be identified only by his last name of Hussein. After eight years of working with U.S. military forces in his home country, he’s still skittish about having his full identity splashed all over the Internet.


His biggest fear at the moment, however, is Kiper.

“I got out of Iraq without getting killed,” Hussein said in an interview Tuesday at a coffee shop near his Forest Avenue apartment. “I don’t want to get killed here.”

Least of all by a 74-year-old guy with a long white beard who plays Uncle Sam for a living. A guy who claims that he’s completely blind and, upon answering a knock at his door Tuesday, greeted a visitor with the claim, “I’m retarded.”

“I don’t know what’s going on with this guy next door,” insisted Kiper, motioning to Hussein’s door a few feet away. “I don’t even know where Iraq’s at!”

Let’s back up a little.

Hussein came to the United States in 2010 after spending the entire Iraq War employed as a civil engineer with U.S. contractors on military bases throughout his home country. After landing first in Connecticut, he moved in 2011 to Portland, where he has obtained permanent residency status and works as an interpreter for Maine State Interpreters and, to help make ends meet, also cleans and details cars.


All was well at first in the nondescript, multi-unit building on outer Forest Avenue where Hussein shared both an entryway and a wall with Kiper – although Hussein did notice that whenever he greeted Kiper as he did his other neighbors, he got nothing in response.

Then in the summer of 2013, Hussein said, things changed.

“He keeps saying, ‘Hey (racial slur), what are you doing here?’ Or, ‘Why don’t you go back to your country?’ Or, ‘I hate you, you (expletive),’ ” said Hussein. “And he kicks on the door, kicks on the wall, complaining about non-American people in the United States.”

Hussein’s response?

“I keep ignoring him.”

Until he couldn’t. Last Feb. 16, after hearing noises outside his door, Hussein said he opened it to find Kiper standing outside with a weightlifting bar raised in his hands.


“I just saw the bar coming down toward me,” said Hussein, who had already called Portland police about Kiper on previous occasions. “So I jumped back in and closed the door and called the police again. And they came and arrested him.”

The Class D charge of terrorizing is scheduled for trial on Feb. 23. Meanwhile, after Kiper allegedly ignored police warnings to leave Hussein alone, the AG’s Office is now seeking an injunction under the Maine Civil Rights Act that would require Kiper to clear out of the apartment building altogether.

“It’s outrageous behavior based solely on this fellow’s race and ethnicity. And it’s inexcusable,” Attorney General Mills said in an interview Monday. After all that Hussein has risked working with U.S. interests in Iraq, she added, “he deserves a commendation, not assaultive behavior, for God’s sake.”

Enter Portland attorney Joseph Goodman, who’s representing Kiper and claims the AG has it all wrong.

“The problem is that I don’t think the AG or even the Iraqi guy really know much about Adolph and his condition,” said Goodman.



“He’s developmentally delayed,” said Goodman. “And he’s blind. And he can’t hear either.”

In other words, Goodman said, “It’s impossible for him to do what they said he did. He’s just not capable of it.”

Back at his apartment, where he has somehow managed to replace the weightlifting bar that police confiscated last February, Kiper could not agree more.

“I don’t even know this guy!” he hollered. “I don’t know what he looks like or nothing!”

Because Kiper is blind?

“It’s been going on for years,” Kiper replied. “Now I just see white stuff. I don’t even see you – except that you’re kind of tall. How tall are you, about 6-6?”


Actually, about 6 feet even. But we digress.

Hussein, for one, doesn’t buy the “totally blind” defense. Those long scratch marks he keeps finding on his car (in which he’s slept in on occasion to escape the diatribes next door) and the broken overhead fluorescent bulbs just outside his apartment door leave Hussein convinced that Kiper can see better than he’s letting on.

Hussein also has provided the AG’s Office with cellphone pictures of trash piled outside his door, along with a video of Kiper allegedly harassing him – ample reason for Hussein, as the AG’s complaint puts it, “to feel unsafe in his own home.”

It’s not the first time. Back in Iraq, Hussein and his family frequently received threats from insurgents who warned that if he kept working with the Americans, bad things would happen to him or his loved ones.

Fortunately, they all survived. In fact, with the help of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office, Hussein recently traveled to Iraq to collect 10 close relatives who are now safely in Maine as political refugees.

Hussein isn’t sure how long he’ll stay in the apartment. But he believes deeply in the United States’ justice system and, rather than run from Kiper, he’ll wait for a judge to “make some kind of solution” to his dilemma.

“I just want to make sure my life is safe,” said Hussein. “I have a lot of friendship with America.”

It’s “Uncle Sam” he can live without.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.