BEVERLY — The Endicott College sophomore charged in what a prosecutor called “completely unprovoked, vicious attacks” on two fellow students walked into court yesterday with his family, who had posted his bail.
But Dillon DeStefano, 19, walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs, after a Salem District Court judge ordered him put back in custody following his arraignment on two counts of aggravated assault and battery.
Police and prosecutors say the attacks are similar to those in the so-called “knockout game,” which has gained notoriety recently through news reports and online. The “game” involves pairs or groups of individuals randomly assaulting strangers, often capturing the attacks on cellphone cameras.
DeStefano, a hockey player from Riverdale, N.J., pleaded not guilty through his attorney, Kevin Prendergast. But that was all Prendergast said yesterday, asking Judge Matthew Machera for a week to prepare for a hearing that will determine whether DeStefano poses a danger to the public.
That hearing was requested by prosecutor Patrick Collins, who described how one student has a shattered eye socket and the other a broken jaw that has been repaired with titanium plates.
That student, whose jaw had to be wired shut while it heals, has lost 10 pounds since the attack on Sunday, Collins said. The other victim, according to police, will require reconstructive surgery.
According to a police report, DeStefano was overheard bragging to others about “punching people for no reason,” a witness told officers. He allegedly talked about putting one man in a headlock and punching him in the jaw.
When approached by police, DeStefano, whose hand was still red and swollen, denied that he’d assaulted anyone, claiming that the injury was caused from “dead lifting.” At the time of the incidents, early Sunday morning, he claimed, he was at a party at “The Farm” with two friends.
But when officers spoke to one of those friends, he described watching DeStefano hit two men at two different spots on campus.
Both victims were being treated at Beverly Hospital when police spoke with them.
The first, whose eye was completely swollen shut, was walking toward the Brindle Hall dormitory around 2:30 p.m. when he was approached by two men.
One of them, a man with short blond hair, said something to him. He told him to “shut up,” and then a man “from out of nowhere” punched him in the eye.
The victim thinks he may have been knocked unconscious. He walked back to the dorm, cleaned up and went to bed. The following morning, his friends urged him to go to the hospital.
The other victim said he had been at a party at the “Baseball” house on Hale Street, then began walking alone along a dark, wooded path, when he was approached by two men. One of the men asked, “Are you looking at me?” The victim said no and kept walking, but one of the men then turned and punched him in the jaw.
A third student has reported being assaulted to the campus security office, but no charges have been filed in that incident.
DeStefano’s family had posted $20,000 cash bail for him following his arrest Tuesday, but Collins filed a motion to have him put back in custody, arguing that the suspect is too dangerous to release under any conditions.
Machera agreed to grant the hearing, ordering court officers to take DeStefano into custody in the courtroom. He will be held at Middleton Jail at least until the Feb. 13 hearing.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.