AUGUSTA — A superior court justice declared a mistrial in a domestic violence case Thursday after two jurors said they found a Waterville man not guilty, even though the foreman had announced a guilty verdict.

Following a two-day trial at the Capital Judicial Center, the foreman reported that jurors found Sterling H. Hartin III, 23, not guilty of aggravated assault but guilty of domestic violence assault.

However, when polled individually at defense attorney Walter McKee’s request, two of the eight women on the jury told the judge they found Hartin “not guilty” of the domestic violence charge.

Those responses spurred a series of sidebar conferences among Justice Michaela Murphy and the two attorneys, as well as a discussion in the judge’s chambers as jurors returned to the jury room.

When they returned to the courtroom, Murphy told them the acquittal would stand on the aggravated assault charge, but that she was declaring a mistrial on the domestic violence assault charge.

“I’ve never had this happen before,” McKee said afterward. “It never happened to the judge or the prosecutor, and between the three of us, we probably have seen about 1,000 jury trials.”

The jury returned the verdicts about 30 minutes after jurors had sent a note indicating they could not reach a unanimous verdict on the second charge.

Murphy said later that the domestic violence assault charge would go back on the trial docket, probably for June.

The woman named as the victim in the charges testified Wednesday that she was choked, strangled and stomped in the head, ribs and legs by Hartin after she told him she was breaking up with him on March 19, 2015, when they met in Winslow.

Hartin testified that he called police, saying he needed help because the woman was “freaking out” and beating on his pickup truck with a broom.

In closing arguments Thursday morning, Assistant District Attorney David Spencer said the victim’s testimony on the stand Wednesday changed with regard to some things she had said earlier, but he added, “One thing that didn’t change is that she was choked, strangled.”

The woman named as the victim in both charges was the first witness Wednesday.

She said she and Hartin had been in a relationship since 2012 and were “still seeing each other” but no longer living together in March 2015.

She said she had sent a text message to Hartin asking him to meet her, and they agreed to meet at a friend’s garage in Winslow.

“I had found out from one of his really close friends that he was seeing his ex-girlfriend again,” she said.

The woman said she questioned him about it as the two sat in her car, and when he said he was indeed dating the other woman, the victim of the alleged assault told him she was ending their relationship, she said.

She testified that he said, “No, you’re not.”

The woman said Hartin refused to leave her car and smacked her cellphone out of her hand after she said she was calling the police.

She said he twisted her arm, pushing her down on the car seat, and then she got out of the vehicle. The woman said Hartin chased her, grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground before kicking her in the ribs and stomping on her.

“He was calling me a bunch of names,” she said, responding to questions from Spencer.

The woman said she then got off the dirt ground and ran toward her car, but Hartin grabbed her again and pinned her against his truck with a broom he had taken from the back of it.

She said he then threw her onto the bench seat in his truck.

“He grabbed a hold of my throat with both hands and held me down,” she said.

The woman’s face reddened and she sobbed aloud at this point, and several people watching in the courtroom left briefly, holding their hands over their eyes.

“To be honest, I didn’t know if he was going to let go,” the woman continued after a pause.

She said he finally let her up after she kicked him between his legs, and he told her to leave.

She returned to her car and as she drove away, she said she saw a police car driving onto North Pond Road. She said she pulled in front of the police car and started talking to the police officer.

“I was an emotional mess,” she said. “I was bleeding from my hands.”

She testified she did not call police and said she assumed Hartin had done so.

She and the officer returned to where Hartin was, and the woman testified that photos of her injuries were taken at the scene. Hartin was arrested there. He remains free on bail.

The jury was shown an enlarged photo of the woman’s neck, and the prosecutor circled two small red marks on either side. Other photos showed dirt on the front of her blue jeans, and the woman said it bore the prints of Hartin’s boots, saying it showed where he kicked her.

McKee, Hartin’s attorney, said in his opening statement that people who saw the woman later that day saw no signs of her being injured and that she required no medical treatment.

McKee said the state’s case is based solely on the woman’s testimony.

He said the couple argued and the woman got upset and angry after Hartin said he was seeing another woman.

He told jurors that the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hartin did any of it.

In his closing argument, McKee urged jurors to acquit Hartin, saying all Hartin did was try to protect his property when she went after his truck with the broom, and that he pushed her away from his truck cab with his boot as she was trying to get in the door.

“The person who called 911 was this guy over here,” McKee said, pointing to Hartin as he sat at the defense table. “All he was trying to do was get her to stop destroying his truck.”

In his rebuttal, Spencer said McKee was arguing “the ‘crazy woman’ defense. I didn’t do anything; this is just a crazy woman.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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