Jury delivers split verdict in Stonington domestic violence case

William H. Linder, 31, faces up to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty Thursday of assaulting and strangling his live-in girlfriend at her Elm Street apartment in Stonington in June 2014.

The jury in New London Superior Court that began deliberating Wednesday afternoon reached a split verdict just before 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The panel of four men and two women found Linder guilty of third-degree assault and second-degree strangulation but said he was not guilty of first-degree unlawful restraint.

Judge John M. Newson will sentence Linder on Aug. 6.

The victim, 48-year-old Christine Czemske, had testified that Linder struck her in the eye with a force that knocked her unconscious and she fell backwards on the bed. She said Linder asked her “Are you OK?” then put his hands on her neck to the point where she could not breathe.

The couple had been living together for about three months and had been arguing the previous night. Linder testified that he awoke to find Czemske on top of him, striking him. Linder asserted that he had accidentally struck Czemske’s eye with his thumb after waking up to find somebody sitting on top of him. He said he did not realize at first that it was her.

Prosecutor Sarah E. Steere had elicited testimony from Stonington police and from Dr. Keith Hilliker, who treated Czemske at Westerly Hospital.

Hilliker had testified that Czemske suffered an eye injury consistent with blunt force trauma. He said she had injuries on her neck consistent with strangulation, along with symptoms of strangulation, including a sore throat and hoarse voice.

In taking the case to trial, Linder had rejected an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a two-year prison sentence.

“He definitely will file an appeal and is maintaining his innocence,” said his attorney, Sebastian O. DeSantis.

Linder, who has been held in lieu of $56,000 while his case was pending, also faces 13 counts of violation of a protective order. Those charges will be tried separately.

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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