AUGUSTA — Biting the ear of the man strangling him was the only way to defend himself, Dylan Nathaniel Hendsbee testified at his trial on charges of aggravated assault and assault against two men.

It appears jurors in Kennebec County Superior Court believed him. The jury of 10 men and two women cleared Hendsbee of those charges Wednesday after deliberating less than half an hour on the third day of his trial.

Hendsbee, 22, of Gardiner, was accused of assaulting Jason Robert Kimball, tearing off a portion of his ear, and of aggravated assault against Dustin Freeman, whose jaw was fractured.

The injuries were a result of a fight between strangers on the morning of April 4, 2013, as Hendsbee tried to get Freeman off Hendsbee’s family’s property on Fountain Street. Kimball joined the fray, apparently to aid Freeman.

Defense attorney Darrick Banda told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday that Hendsbee had a right to order Freeman off the property and that Hendsbee was allowed to use force to remove Freeman from his property after warning him about trespassing.

Banda also urged jurors to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses in the case, saying some of their testimony this week directly contradicted what they told the investigating officer at the time of the incident.

“These witnesses contradict each other and contradict themselves,” Banda said in closing.

Several of those taped interviews were played for the jury.

In his closing, Deputy District Attorney Fernand Larochelle said Hendsbee’s actions did not constitute self-defense.

“When talking with Officer (David) Tims, the defendant denied hitting Freeman, saying, ‘He wasn’t a threat to me,'” Larochelle said.

After Freeman was pushed to the ground, witnesses said Kimball came running out of a nearby house to aid him. Weeks later, Freeman allegedly accused a fourth man of being the person who punched him, not Hendsbee.

Larochelle told jurors it was not necessary for Hendsbee to bite off a piece of Kimball’s ear.

Banda said it was.

“Imagine being strangled and squeezed by somebody you don’t know,” Banda said. “He’s doing the only thing possible to get this man off of him. He’s allowed to bite.”

Six members of Hendsbee’s family sat in the back of the courtroom, listening as Justice Daniel Billings instructed the jury in the law and the two attorneys gave their closing arguments.

Hendsbee had been free pending trial.

“He was very emotional,” Banda said. “He and his entire family. His aunt, his biological mother. They were all very emotional, and they were very pleased to get beyond it.”

“I’m happy because the jury followed the law,” Banda added. “It’s difficult to do when you have injuries.”

“Mr. Hendsbee received a fair trial, and I respect the decision of the jury,” District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said after the verdict.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams