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Man who used Zoloft defense convicted of assault

The Coram man who said his withdrawal from the antidepressant Zoloft was to blame for him beating his girlfriend was convicted Wednesday in Nassau County Court of felony assault, attempted assault and second-degree harassment charges.

Brandon Hampson, 39, was acquitted on charges of unlawful imprisonment and third-degree menacing.

Hampson's attorney, Eric Bernstein of Manhattan, had argued Hampson "stopped taking Zoloft" several days before the attack and it was the withdrawal from the pill that made him violent.

Hampson's former girlfriend, Lisa Essling, 28, of Malverne, said he punched and kicked her Aug. 25, 2006, at the Lynbrook apartment where he then lived. Essling said he broke an eye bone and injured her skull, neck and back.

"We are thrilled that we were able to achieve justice for this victim and delighted that the jury completely rejected the notion that Zoloft withdrawal caused him to commit this crime," said Kyle Rose-Louder, the deputy bureau chief of the Nassau County district attorney's Special Victims Bureau.

The jury took about five hours to convict Hampson after a trial that lasted 2 1/2 weeks.

Hampson faces up to a year in prison. He will be sentenced by District Court Judge Rhonda Fischer at a future date.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned about slight risks for suicidal behavior in a small number of people using some antidepressants, including Zoloft.

The FDA has not blamed such drugs for violent behavior.

Pfizer, which makes Zoloft, paid a Harvard Medical School professor $7,500 per day to testify as a witness for the prosecution.

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