BRENTWOOD – A jury found Manchester Police Officer Nathan Linstad not guilty of simple assault against his estranged wife at the couple's Raymond home in September.
Jurors returned their verdict around 1 p.m. in Rockingham County Superior Court roughly three hours after lawyers presented closing arguments in the case.
Linstad, 35, was charged with misdemeanor simple assault. Prosecutors alleged he grabbed his estranged wife, Melinda, in a bear hug and body slammed her to the floor while the two argued about his cell phone.
Defense lawyer Eric Wilson argued that Linstad may have been untruthful to his wife about talking to other women, but he did not get into a physical confrontation with her. Wilson maintained that the details in the police investigation and his client's wife account did not jibe when closely scrutinized.
Jurors saw photographs of Melinda Linstad's bruises to her right arm and upper right thigh.
Linstad, who joined the department in August 2001, has remained on inside duty at the police station since his arrest.
(For more on this story, see Thursday's edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader.)
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BRENTWOOD – Manchester police Officer Nathan Linstad was described by a prosecutor as a "superb liar" who tried to save his job and his reputation once his wife reported that he assaulted her at their Raymond home in September.
The statement came during closing arguments in Linstad's simple assault trial Thursday morning in Rockingham County Superior Court.
"There are two sides to the defendant. There is one side that everybody sees, the police officer, the guy who gets an award. But there is another side to him, the side he keeps hidden, the side he kept hidden from his wife and everyone else," assistant county attorney Patricia Conway told jurors.
Linstad grabbed his wife in a bear hug from behind, then body slammed her to the floor after she attempted to call a woman that her husband was having an affair with, according to Conway.
Defense lawyer Eric Wilson argued that Melinda Linstad's account of the Sept. 5 assault did not jibe with bruising to her right arm and upper right thigh.
"There is no question at all that Nathan lied to Melinda, but the prosecutor is going to get up after me and say because Nathan lied to Melinda, he lied to you. But put things in perspective," Wilson said.
Nathan Linstad testified in his own defense late Wednesday afternoon, telling the jury he never laid hands on his wife.
But Conway argued that Linstad continued to lie after the assault about having a girlfriend – first to his superior officer at work during an internal investigation, then to the Raymond police detective investigating the assault.
Linstad acknowledged during his testimony that he had sex with another woman days after he told his wife he wanted out of the marriage.
The woman was the same one that Melinda Linstad attempted to call on her husband's cellphone once she told him to hand over his cellphone, according to court testimony.
Wilson said that Melinda Linstad already knew about her husband communicating with other women through text messages, emails and phone calls, and that his client had no anger toward his wife when she asked for his cellphone on the morning of Sept. 5.
"He's got nothing to hide," Wilson said. "She is finding out everything. The last thing is that phone number, and Nathan knows it's going to happen."
Wilson said Melinda Linstad's actions made no sense because after the attack, she asked her husband into the basement to review some bills on a home computer before they parted ways. She reported the matter to Raymond police once she got to work.
Melinda Linstad testified during the trial that after being warned by her husband to not call police, she called her mother, who advised her to act as if everything was normal and to call police at work.
Conway said Nathan Linstad left his Raymond home after the assault and met with his superior. Manchester police Sgt. Scott Fuller testified that he spoke with Linstad out in the department's parking lot before bringing him inside for a more complete interview. Fuller said he made a report of the conversation because it could set off an internal investigation.
"He knows this is really serious," Conway said about Linstad. "He lies to Fuller about a few things. He lies to him about having an affair, lies to him about not having a girlfriend, and says (his wife) called Bree Smith. He knows there's no Bree Smith."
"As much as the defendant wants you to believe there's some sort of conspiracy going on here against him, there isn't," Conway said.
Wilson reminded jurors that they had the ultimate power in rendering a verdict, and said there was enough evidence to counter the state's case.
"If you could come to two conclusions, one that he assaulted her, one he didn't assault her, then you must acquit him," Wilson said.
Judge N. William Delker began giving jury instructions Thursday morning.