AUGUSTA — A jury Wednesday found an Augusta man guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence assault but not of felony aggravated assault following a two-day trial in which the defendant’s former wife alleged he had strangled her until she lost consciousness.

Bruce W. Tillson Jr., 45, was accused of punching, kicking and strangling his then-wife, Jessica L. Tillson, on Nov. 8, 2021, at the home they shared in Pittston.

Jessica Tillson testified Bruce Tillson strangled her three times that day, once to the point she lost consciousness. She said she regained consciousness when Bruce Tillson poured a beer over her head and said, “Have a beer on me, bitch.” She guessed she had been unconscious for about 30 seconds.

“He straddled me and took me to unconsciousness,” Jessica Tillson testified on the witness stand, saying Bruce Tillson applied pressure to her throat with his hands. “I thought I was going to die. I thought this was it. I fought as best I could. Everything went dark, I lost consciousness.”

Defense lawyer John Pelletier questioned the credibility and believability of Jessica Tillson’s account of the incident, saying she had spoken of the incident multiple times and there were inconsistencies in her recounting.

Pelletier said Jessica Tillson said nothing to a police dispatcher, a Kennebec County Sheriff’s deputy and emergency room workers about having been strangled.


Pelletier also said Jessica Tillson told the jury she thought she had been strangled for 30 seconds, but had written in a previous statement she had been strangled for 15 seconds.

Pelletier said Jessica Tillson had been convicted four times on theft charges — twice in 2017 and twice in 2018, which she acknowledged on the stand.

“In evaluating someone’s credibility, you can take into account previous inconsistent statements,” Pelletier told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday. “And in this case, you’re going to hear there were inconsistencies everywhere. Jessica has spoken of this incident multiple times, and you’ll hear she’s never told the same story twice.”

Under questioning, Jessica Tillson said she has suffered memory loss since the incident.

Polly Campbell, clinical director for the University of New England’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, who testified as an expert witness and had not specifically reviewed any information on the Tillson case, said a person can lose consciousness in seven or eight seconds if pressure is applied to the person’s throat, restricting the flow of blood to the brain.

Campbell said after 50 seconds, the body’s ability to breathe on its own is gone.


Campbell, a registered nurse for 53 years, said those who lose consciousness can have memory problems and ongoing medical issues.

Following the verdict, Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, said Wednesday: “While I appreciate the jury found that Jessica told the truth and was assaulted by her then-husband, I am saddened that they did not conclude that evidence of strangulation was sufficient to convict on the complicated aggravated assault statute. By definition, strangulation manifests an extreme indifference to the value of human life because it causes lasting damage to the human brain.”

Maine law requires a finding that a defendant “did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury” to the victim “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” to raise an assault charge to the aggravated assault level.

Pelletier declined to comment Thursday on the verdict. In court, however, he told Superior Court Justice William Stokes that while strangulation can be a factor in an aggravated assault charge, that alone does not does not demonstrate extreme indifference to the value of human life. Pelletier said that is determined by a totality of the circumstances, not the accusation of strangulation by itself.

Assistant District Attorney Amanda Seekins, who prosecuted the case, told jurors Bruce Tillson endangered Jessica Tillson’s life when he put his hands around her throat and applied pressure until she lost consciousness, and the use of strangulation in an assault is, specifically, a circumstance that can bring an incident to the level of aggravated assault under Maine law.

Sentencing for Tillson on the domestic violence assault charge is set for July 19. As a Class D crime, it is punishable by up to one year in prison.

Testimony included that the couple, who were married for 16 years, fought the day of Nov. 8, 2021, primarily over Bruce Tillson’s drinking alcohol, and they both used crack cocaine that day. Jessica Tillson said she has since stopped using drugs and has not used any in seven months.

Maloney said the trial was the third domestic violence-related trial in Kennebec County in June.

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