Man Accused of Assaulting Hartford Postmaster Found Not Guilty

Thursday, December 12, 2013
White River Junction — A jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes on Wednesday before finding a North Pomfret man not guilty of attacking the Hartford Village postmaster in April 2012.

Brian Bowles, 41, was acquitted of the simple assault charge by a 12-person jury at the end of a one-day trial at Windsor Superior Court. He would have faced up to one year in prison if convicted.

Hartford Village Post Office Postmaster Rosi O’Connell accused Bowles, a contracted mail carrier, of hitting her in the head with a hand-held mail scanner in a room at the back of the post office last year following months of increasing tensions between the two. A post office customer discovered her slumped over on the floor, and a police officer said she was dazed and had a bump forming on her head. She was admitted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and released that day.

Bowles maintained that the attack never happened, and said he didn’t even fully enter the back room of the post office that day. He said he stood in the doorway and used one hand to grab a stack of mail before a verbal confrontation with O’Connell ensued and then left. He said he called his supervisor a few hours later and quit his job, citing his frustrations with O’Connell.

After his acquittal on Wednesday, Bowles said he’s had difficulty finding work since charges were brought against him because background checks by potential employers turned up the pending case. He hoped Wednesday’s verdict would change that.

“To be accused of something that you never did, it’s nothing but relief,” he said outside the courthouse.

O’Connell, 59, who also lives in North Pomfret, left the courthouse immediately after the trial. A phone message left at her home Wednesday was not returned.

Both O’Connell and Bowles said that a series of workplace disputes over more than a year had deteriorated their working relationship to the point that, for one month, Bowles had requested a Postal Service supervisor accompany him in O’Connell’s presence, and O’Connell claimed that Bowles had once directed a slur at her that made reference to her Spanish heritage.

O’Connell and Bowles were the only two people present on the day of the alleged incident. They both testified on Wednesday. Other witnesses included people who interacted with O’Connell shortly afterward, including the woman who found her slumped over on the floor, and former coworkers, with one casting doubt on her credibility.

Juror Robert Giguere, of Barnard, said after the trial that the jury quickly came to a consensus that the state didn’t meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There was a lack of physical evidence, he said, and the case essentially came down to one person’s word against another’s.

“There was no ... evidence other than what was said,” he said. “It just wasn’t enough.”

In an interview afterward, Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said he believed that Bowles’ former supervisor, retired postal worker James Wimberg, was a “significant witness” for the defense in casting doubt on O’Connell’s credibility. Wimberg testified that he knew O’Connell to be untruthful in a separate instance, making it difficult for the state to reach the burden of proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kainen said.

During the trial, Kainen spent several minutes cross-examining Wimberg in an effort undercut his testimony, including noting that one instance Wimberg cited actually involved another postal worker.

“So now I’d ask you,” Kainen said to Wimberg, “on your honor and on your oath, do you know any particular instance where Rosi O’Connell told you something that you know to be untrue?”

“Yeah, I certainly do,” Wimberg said. He was not required to elaborate.

O’Connell, who emigrated from Peru in 1980 and was previously postmaster at the West Hartford Post Office until it was wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene, walked into court with the help of a cane. She had previously told the Valley News that the April attack resulted in an injury that required knee surgery.

Lawyers discussed the neck support brace that O’Connell received from DHMC about two days after the incident, but a knee injury was not mentioned. After the trial, Kainen said O’Connell did not seek a more thorough evaluation of her knee until weeks after the incident, and the time lapse made it too difficult to establish a correlation between any attack and the injury.

A separate instance in which O’Connell said she was attacked at her North Pomfret home in October 2012 also was not mentioned on Wednesday. Kainen said that although O’Connell was attacked , the event happened in the dark, making it difficult to positively identify the assailant.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at or 603-727-3220.

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