SALEM — A Lawrence man will spend the next five years on probation after pleading guilty Monday to charges that he attacked and beat a transgender woman outside the Ward 6 Social Club in 2016.
Benjamin Espino, 43, of 105 Boxford St., must attend an anger management course and will continue to wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet as a condition of his probation in the case, a Salem Superior Court judge ordered on Monday.
The conditions were part of a plea agreement reached between Espino's attorney, Denise Regan, and prosecutor Kristen Buxton that was accepted by Judge Thomas Drechsler.
The plea agreement also contains a stipulation that a civil rights charge against Espino be continued without a finding for five years and then dismissed as long as Espino complies with the terms of his probation on three other counts, all of them assault and battery charges, to which Espino pleaded guilty. This type of provision is unusual for a Superior Court case.
Buxton said the agreement took into account the best interests of the victim, who was not present in court for the hearing on Monday.
The civil rights charge had already been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor after prosecutors agreed that the victim had not suffered lasting physical harm in the Nov. 19, 2016, incident.
But she has suffered emotionally, Buxton told the judge.
The victim, 20 at the time, was a friend of Espino's common-law wife. They, and several other people, were at the club that evening when Espino's wife began dancing with the victim.
Espino was angered by the situation, the prosecutor said, and yelled "Why are you dancing with that," followed by a slur.
Later, as the group left the club, Espino attacked the victim, punching her, kicking her while wearing work boots, and then ripping off braids she was wearing, again uttering the same slur.
Buxton told the judge that while she did not ask for jail time, the significant emotional trauma suffered by the victim called for a long period of probation.
Because one of the assault and battery counts, involving a dangerous weapon (Espino's work boots), is a felony, Espino could face up to 10 years in prison if he violates his probation.
Regan said the conditions go to the heart of what caused her client's behavior that night — alcohol.
Espino has five children with his common-law wife and a sixth child on the way, said the lawyer. He supports them by working for a tree service, trimming branches for utility companies in New Hampshire.
Espino spent 132 days in custody prior to his release on bail in the case.
"You, more than most, have an awful lot to lose, with a big family like yours, if you drink," Drechsler warned Espino.
Drechsler also warned Espino that he is barred from contact, even indirectly, with the victim and another person who was a witness against him in the case.
That warning came after Buxton told the judge that there had been some interactions on social media earlier in the case.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.