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Traveler acquitted in attack on airline worker

NEWARK, New Jersey (CNN) -- John Davis of Virginia was acquitted Tuesday of assaulting Continental Airlines gate agent Angelo Sotille at New Jersey's Newark International Airport.

After a two-week trial in Essex County's Superior Court, the jury returned a verdict just before noon, finding Davis not guilty of two counts of aggravated assault that stemmed from an incident in July 1999.

In closing arguments Monday, defense attorney Anthony Pope contended that Davis was merely acting in self-defense and that it was unfortunate Sotille was hurt in the process.


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Pope described the gate agent as "angry and overworked." He said Sotille provoked the altercation when he blocked the jet runway and prevented Davis and his wife from retrieving their toddler daughter, who had wandered away.

Davis and 10 other family members were on their way to Orlando, Florida, for a visit to Disney World and had just endured a two-hour delay of their flight, according to the Associated Press.

As a result of the incident, Sotille, 52, landed in a hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a fractured neck.

Prosecutor Leslie Mann said Davis, 31, was "bigger and stronger" and threw the gate agent to the ground, causing bodily harm.

Both sides, in opening arguments, made it clear that this case was not about air rage and told jurors they were not to make judgments on the airlines or on air travel.

Sotille has filed a civil lawsuit against the Davis, the airport security company and the port authority that manages the airport.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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