- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

NEWTON, N.J. (AP) - A Tennessee man who was once sentenced to thirty years in prison in the New Jersey beating death of a fellow pipeline worker has left court a free man after being found not guilty in a second trial.

Jacob Gentry was acquitted Thursday of aggravated manslaughter and endangering an injured victim charges in the 2008 death of David Haulmark outside a northern New Jersey hotel.

In 2011, Gentry was found guilty and sentenced to the 30 year term, but an appeals court overturned that conviction last year after it found that Gentry was denied a fair trial because the jury wasn’t given instructions to consider Gentry’s self-defense claim on aggravated manslaughter charges.

The 155-pound Gentry testified that the 235-pound Haulmark escalated a fistfight outside the Legends Resort hotel in Vernon, Sussex County, into a bigger brawl, leading Gentry to defend himself. Gentry testified in his first trial that he kicked Haulmark because he didn’t want him to get back up.

Testimony during the initial trial painted Haulmark as a former football player who was the “muscle” behind a group of aggressive and loudmouthed friends who didn’t approve of Gentry.

A Legends manager told the jury that Haulmark once said that he and his friends belonged to the “pipeline mafia” before threatening to kill her, hurt her children and burn her house to the ground.

The appeals court found that if jurors believed Gentry’s story to be true, then there was enough evidence to support a claim of self-defense.

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Information from: The New Jersey Herald (Newton, N.J.), https://www.njherald.com

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