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North Dakota ex-trooper acquitted on assault charges

A Clay County District Court jury found a former North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper not guilty on Wednesday of child endangerment and domestic assault charges.

The six-person jury took a little more than an hour to deliberate on the charges against Michael Polomny after hearing evidence for a day and a half.

"Justice was done," said Mark Friese, the attorney for Polomny.

Polomny declined comment after the jury handed down the verdicts shortly past 2 p.m., but Friese said his client is excited to move back home with his kids and his wife. His wife had asked Judge Michael Kirk to lift a no-contact order prior to the trial, a request that was rejected.

"He's exhausted, he's relieved, and most of all, he's back with his family," Friese said.

Prosecutors charged Polomny with a gross misdemeanor of child endangerment and misdemeanor domestic assault, alleging he struck, kicked and pushed his wife while she held their baby boy.

Pamela Harris, an assistant Clay County Attorney, said she was disappointed with the jury's verdict and wished the best for the ex-trooper's wife and six kids.

"Hopefully, they'll get the help they need," she said.

The charges sprang from an argument Polomny and his wife, Naomi Polomny, had about his addiction to "Mafia Wars," a game on the social networking website Facebook that he said he played as much as 16 hours a day - sometimes while he was on duty as a trooper.

Polomny had argued that he didn't hit or kick his wife, as she told police after the June 23 incident, and only pushed her when she tried to prevent him from leaving their Moorhead home. He also admitted to grabbing her by the arm to move her, leaving bruises on her arms.

Harris argued to the jury in closing that Polomny's assertion that he had to put his hands on his wife because she was blocking his way out was untrue. He said on the stand Wednesday that at a point during the fight, he turned back down the basement stairs to push his wife though she was no longer in his way.

"He had a way out," Harris said. "He didn't have to touch her at all."

Naomi Polomny testified on Tuesday that she wasn't blocking his exit, but she also said she wasn't sure if he had kicked or hit her.

Harris said the wife's recollection of the incident was consistent and urged jurors to focus on the photos of her bruises, including a scrape on her back.

"She got hit in the back by something, and Mr. Polomny was the only one there," Harris said.

Though Polomny wasn't always a good husband or father, that doesn't make him a criminal, Friese said in his closing argument.

"Don't take the bait," he told the jury, later saying, "The fact that Naomi has bruises does not mean Mike is guilty."

Polomny was a trooper at the time of his arrest but was fired due to the assault allegations, he testified on Wednesday morning. He's appealing his termination, Friese said.

Because the appeal has not been settled, the North Dakota Highway Patrol can not disclose details about the termination, said Capt. Eldon Mehrer.

The lawyer representing Polomny in the appeal did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

Polomny's wife had testified on Tuesday that Polomny had been playing "Mafia Wars" as much as 10 hours a day. In his testimony Wednesday, Polomny said it was actually between 12 hours and 16 hours a day.

Polomny's wife became concerned about his gaming when she found out he secretly spent $1,000 buying "Mafia Wars" points and had been chatting with a female who also played. He and the woman, who hailed from New Jersey, shared intimate details about their lives and talked together on the phone. He said he broke off the relationship before the June 23 incident.

The night of the fight, his wife questioned him about whether he was talking to the woman or buying more "Mafia Wars" points. He got so angry that he lost his voice in a cuss-filled shouting match before grabbing his two laptops so he could drive somewhere else and play "Mafia Wars" alone.

The couple ended up in a physical struggle over the computers, with the husband eventually pulling them from his wife's grasp.

Polomny said even then, he didn't realize he had an addiction to the game. He said he hasn't played "Mafia Wars" since his arrest.

"I really believed I didn't have a problem at that time," Polomny said.

After receiving the jury's verdicts, Kirk urged the ex-trooper to seek help.

"You need to address this issue going forward," Kirk said.