Jury acquits Dallas-Koziol

Defendant found ‘not guilty’ on all charges

NASHUA – On Monday, seven days after his assault and kidnapping trail began in Hillsborough County Superior Court-South, Christopher Dallas-Koziol rose to his feet wearing a facial expression that reflected anxiety and concern.

But at about 2:30 p.m., as the foreman of the jury stood and began announcing what would turn out to be a string of seven “not guilty” responses, the 32-year-old defendant took a couple of deep breaths and broke a smile as his attorney patted him on the back.

“It was a hard-fought battle, the attorney, Rusty Chadwick, said after court adjourned. “When the news first came out about this, it looked very different than it does now.

“I’m elated he’s free.”

Chadwick referred to the October incident for which Dallas-Koziol and three other men, all friends of the late Eric Luna, were charged with beating, stripping naked, pouring lighter fluid on and holding captive the man they believed sold Luna the drugs that killed him.

While the other three men – Shane MacKenzie, 38, Jeremiah Starkweather, 43, and Jonathan Emery, 39 – reached plea agreements with prosecutors to serve various amounts of prison time, Dallas-Koziol opted to take his case to trial.

After deliberating for about two hours Friday afternoon and another four or so hours Monday, the jury of eight men and four women found Dallas-Koziol not guilty of one count each of first-degree assault; second-degree assault; criminal threatening; kidnapping; and criminal restraint.

Jurors also returned not guilty verdicts on two lesser charges of simple assault, which they were allowed to consider by agreement of the parties.

The charges accused Dallas-Koziol of “acting in concert with” the other men to assault the alleged victim, strip him naked, pour lighter fluid on him, confine him to the apartment and prevent him from leaving, point a gun at him, and cut the victim’s face with a knife, according to the indictments.

Several members of Dallas-Koziol’s family, who were present each day of the trial, embraced, some shedding tears of relief, after the reading of the verdicts.

They chose not to comment as they left the courtroom, where they gathered briefly with Chadwick before heading downstairs to reunite with Dallas-Koziol.

Chadwick said later one of the key components to his client’s acquittal was the defense’s ability to “diffuse the hostage situation,” a reference to the state’s position that the victim was essentially held hostage and under the control of the four men for the duration of the hours-long assaults.

Evidence collected by police, Chadwick said, showed the alleged victim was able to use his phone to send text messages and make at least one phone call during the ordeal. He said by presenting that information to the jury, he was able to counter the “hostage” argument.

Meanwhile, Assistant County Attorney Cassie Devine, who prosecuted the case, went into the trial without the ability to put the victim on the stand. Devine, who told the court early on that her office’s efforts to locate the alleged victim were unsuccessful, said Monday she believes his absence hindered the state’s case.

“Given the nature of this case, it was tough to prove (the case) beyond a reasonable doubt without the victim,” Devine said, adding that she believes the man “relocated out of state, and stopped responding to my office.

“I appreciate the effort the jury put into making their determination,” she said.

Chadwick, meanwhile, expressed gratitude for the nation’s judicial system.

“I am, once again, thankful we live in a country where people get a fair opportunity to defend themselves,” he said.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.