FARMINGTON, Maine — A Wilton man who punched his former neighbor in the face after beeping his car horn was found guilty Wednesday of felony assault in Franklin County Superior Court.
Dean Martin Jr., 38, was on trial for assaulting Hutch McPheters, who lived across the street in October 2012.
Martin became irate with McPheters because he beeped the horn of his vehicle in a beep, beep, beep method each day to say goodbye to his young daughter and his mother who was babysitting her, according to testimony in the jury trial.
Wilton police officer Timothy Coombs testified that when he responded to the scene, Martin was upset that McPheters beeped the horn and Martin thought it was directed at him.
Coombs also testified that he was unaware of other complaints about the beeping noise, at least none that he took.
Assistant District Attorney James Andrews said that at the time of the incident, Martin challenged McPheters to get out of his vehicle and threatened to assault him. McPheters replied, “I thought you only hit women.” Martin then struck McPheters, according to testimony.
McPheters made a sarcastic comment, Andrews said in his closing statement, he did not threaten Martin. “Sarcasm does not merit a punch in the jaw.”
Andrews said Martin was making physical threats against McPheters, was angry and acting irrationally.
This is not a case of provocation, he said. This is a case of Martin acting like a child and making threatening comments, he said.
Defense attorney Linda Sparks said the testimony indicated the two neighbors did not get along very well. She said that while the state called McPheters’ comment “sarcasm,” she called it taunting.
Martin did not testify in his defense, which is his right, she said, so the jury did not get to hear the effect the comment had on him.
This wasn’t just a touch on the horn, she said. Her client didn’t deny punching McPheters, she said, but that he was provoked by the comment and the circumstances.
Following the jury’s verdict, Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that Martin should continue to be held without bail. His bail on the assault charge had been revoked due to new charges filed against him, Andrews said.
The verdict took about an hour to reach. Sentencing was put off until March 22.