AUBURN — A jury acquitted a local man Tuesday on a charge of aggravated assault in connection with a fight that occurred last summer with his partner in a medical marijuana growing operation.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for three hours starting Tuesday morning before returning a not guilty verdict. Had Derek Daniel Fox, 41, been convicted on the Class B felony charge, he would have faced up to 10 years in prison.

Fox, who testified during the one-day trial, said he struck Derek “Rick” Hyde with a 2-foot length of solid wood in self-defense.

Fox sought to justify legally his actions and a jury apparently agreed. In a self-defense case, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t act in self-defense in order to secure a conviction.

According to state law, a person may legally use a “reasonable degree” of non-deadly force on another person if the defendant “reasonably believes” the other person is about to use illegal non-deadly force against him. Moreover, the defendant is allowed to use enough force “reasonably . . . necessary” to repel that aggressor.

“We were very pleased that the jury listened to all of the evidence,” said defense attorney Jason Dionne, who noted the duration of the jury’s deliberations. “They truly took the time to process the information and took the judge’s instructions to heart, and, in the end, we believe they came out with the right result.”

Dionne said his client’s actions were aimed at restraining the victim or defusing the situation.

Fox and Hyde were growing medical marijuana legally under state licenses and had valid prescriptions for marijuana. They are both legal marijuana caregivers and grew the pot in a room at Hyde’s home.

According to Lewiston police, early on the evening of June 26, Fox was at Hyde’s Vine Street home.

At about 8 p.m., Hyde decided he wanted to smoke some of the pot and took a bud from Fox’s plant, police said. Fox took exception, and a struggle ensued.

During the fight, Hyde shattered the bulb of a grow light and fell into a wall with enough force to crack sheet rock, prosecutors said. In an effort to subdue Hyde, Fox was on top, but Hyde reached up and began to choke Fox. Fox withdrew, picked up a piece of wood, and hit Hyde on the temple and the back of the head, said Andrew Robinson, deputy district attorney for Androscoggin County.

According to Dionne, Fox said he only hit Hyke once with the board, on the temple, as Hyde pursued him. The blow to the back of Hyde’s head occurred when he slammed into the wall.

Hyde was later taken to a Lewiston hospital where he was treated for his injuries and released. Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Fox was injured during the struggle.

The defense said that Hyde had been diagnosed as HIV positive, but wasn’t taking medication for that condition. Fox knew that and used the board in an effort to maintain distance from Hyde, who was bleeding from cuts sustained when the grow light shattered.

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