FARMINGTON — A Wilton man who punched his former neighbor in the face for 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 three consecutive times each day to say goodbye to his young daughter and his mother, who was baby-sitting 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 he was unaware of other complaints about the beeping noise.
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, but 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 exercised his right not to testify, 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 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 His bail on the assault charge had been revoked due to new charges filed against him, Andrews said.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 jury reached its verdict in about an hour. Sentencing is set for March 22.