A jury in Thunder Bay has found Kesley Jacob not guilty of manslaughter in the 2011 death of Barney Beaver.
The 35-year-old Jacob, from Nibinamik First Nation, was charged after 53-year-old Beaver, from Webequie First Nation, died in hospital following an altercation in a Thunder Bay hotel.
Jacob's defence lawyer, George Joseph, said it took the jury just over an hour to reach its verdict, adding that his client reacted strongly when he heard it in Superior Court Thursday afternoon.
"He started crying and hugged me and wouldn't let go," Joseph told CBC News.
During the trial, the jury heard that the two men, who were close friends, had been drinking with a group and were in Beaver's room in the Victoria Inn the evening of December 17, 2011.
According to the defence, Jacob left the room at one point, and returned to find Beaver sexually assaulting his common-law wife.
The court was told that Jacob pushed Beaver away and punched him. It was unclear during testimony how many times.
Joseph argued that his client did what he had to do to stop the assault and get his wife out of danger.
Crown Attorney Rob Kozak countered that the use of force was excessive, suggesting that Jacob continued "pounding" Beaver after he was no longer a threat.
Joseph said now that the trial is over, Jacob will need time to process everything.
"His life's essentially been on hold since December ," Joseph said. "He's very emotional. He's lived with the fact that his friend died after that encounter, whether it's his fault or not."
Kozak declined to comment on the verdict.