DV assault trial involving city man and former Middleton officer under way

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Defense lawyer David Betancourt, left, with client Michael McNeil. (Rochester Voice photo)

DOVER - A jury trial to decide the guilt or innocence of a Rochester man and former Middleton Police Officer charged in a 2019 domestic violence assault got under way on Monday in Stafford County Superior Court with conflicting stories from defense and prosecutor over the nature of the incident and intent of the accused.
Prosecutor Keith Blair said in opening statements that Michael McNeil, 41, of Flower Drive, suspected the alleged victim of cheating on him and said, "I am really going to murder you," before going into his bedroom and returning moments later with a pistol in his waistband.
Blair also said that McNeil smashed a picture frame on the floor of their residence and kicked a refrigerator, both criminal mischief offenses. He also said McNeil is guilty of simple assault by grabbing the wrist of his domestic partner.
Defense lawyer David Betancourt countered that McNeil was innocent of all charges, saying that he grabbed her wrist while pressing her to admit she was having an affair, but let her go as soon as she pulled away.
"That's not simple assault," Betancourt said, "not when he lets her go right away."
Betancourt also said McNeil was venting when he broke the picture, which belonged to him; and that kicking the refrigerator caused nothing but a scuff mark that could be wiped away.
Betancourt said his client always carried a gun for personal protection and was about to leave the residence when he came out of the bedroom with his personally owned Smith and Wesson revolver. Betancourt said McNeil never took the gun out of his waistband and left the house shortly thereafter.
McNeil, who also has a food truck business, had served with the Middleton Police Department since 2012. He has also had stints with the Farmington Police Department and the Strafford County Sheriff's Office.
Several Rochester Police Officers were called on Monday as witnesses by the state to testify as to what happened that night including Patrol Officer James Murphy, who said McNeil complied with all demands when he came into contact with him on nearby Corson Street.
According to a criminal complaint filed at Strafford County Superior Court, the incident occurred shortly after midnight on June 12 as McNeil and his girlfriend were engaged in an argument. According to a Rochester Police affidavit, officers got involved after it was learned a female was texting her cousin that her boyfriend was threatening her with a gun.
Police soon learned who the victim was and that McNeil may be the suspect.
While en route to the scene, it was reported to responding officers that McNeil had left the scene in his car, and soon after officers caught up with him in a Corson Street driveway.
McNeil admitted to the officers that the two had been arguing, but said he never threatened his girlfriend with the handgun, only that he retrieved the handgun from his bedroom as he was leaving the residence.
A Smith and Wesson .380 was found inside McNeil's car.
According to the affidavit, police interviewed the girlfriend, who showed police a scratch on her right wrist she said had been inflicted by McNeil when he grabbed it.
She also showed police broken pictures McNeil had allegedly broken by smashing them on the floor and marks on a refrigerator from when he allegedly kicked it a couple of times.
Because of his relationship with several Strafford County law enforcement agencies the case is being prosecuted by the Carroll County Attorneys Office.
The trial is expected to run through Thursday followed by jury instructions and deliberations.

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