SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 8, 2014

DA: Endicott student claimed ties to Mob after assaults

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — The Endicott College sophomore now under indictment for randomly attacking three fellow students last month, leaving two with what a prosecutor called “life-changing injuries,” allegedly had a warning for one witness in the case.

Dillon DeStefano warned the fellow student, an acquaintance who’d been with him during the incidents, that “he’d better not say anything, because his family has connections to the Mob in New Jersey,” prosecutor James Gubitose told a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday during DeStefano’s arraignment.

DeStefano, 19, of River Vale, N.J., pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and a charge of assault and battery.

One student suffered a shattered eye socket and the other a broken and dislocated jaw that will have to remain wired shut for eight weeks, Gubitose told Judge John Lu. The third student was put in a headlock and struck in the face but was not seriously injured.

Gubitose is asking Lu to deem DeStefano too dangerous to release before trial. A Salem District Court judge last week found DeStefano a danger, but the indictment and transfer of the case to the Superior Court starts that process all over again.

Gubitose described the three assaults, starting with a young man who was walking with his girlfriend when he was jumped, put in a headlock and punched.

DeStefano and some acquaintances then went to get something to eat, before he attacked a second classmate, leaving him with a broken eye socket.

Shortly after that, he was seen on surveillance video from the campus “almost mocking” the victim, appearing to laugh as he re-enacted the way the victim reeled back, Gubitose told the judge.

The third victim was a freshman baseball player who was “sucker punched” in the jaw, leaving it broken and out of place. The student, who attended Endicott because he wanted to play baseball, has lost the entire season as a result, said the prosecutor.

DeStefano then headed to a party, said the prosecutor, where he allegedly bragged about what he’d done.

Gubitose said that not only was the claim to Mob ties, which could not be confirmed, “telling,” but the sheer randomness of the assaults “weighs in favor of the Commonwealth’s position.”

But DeStefano’s lawyers, which now number three, want him released on bail, suggesting that aside from the one-hour spree of assaults — which they don’t concede were committed by DeStefano — there is no evidence that he is a violent person.

“This is a single, one-hour period in his life,” argued Martin Weinberg, one of three private defense attorneys DeStefano’s family has now hired to represent him in the case.

Weinberg and co-counsel William Cintolo and Ray Buso argue that DeStefano has led an otherwise “impeccable” life, submitting a package of letters from teachers, coaches, neighbors, police and family members in New Jersey.

“If he couldn’t control himself, there would be evidence of prior incidents,” Weinberg suggested.

Weinberg argued that the five weeks DeStefano has spent at Middleton Jail have been a wake-up call, and that he knows it would be “catastrophic” if he failed to comply with bail conditions or failed to appear at future proceedings.

Weinberg also said DeStefano has Crohn’s disease, which requires him to have a “stressless” life and special diet.

Lu took the requests under advisement and ordered that DeStefano remain in custody until he issues a ruling.

Buso said outside court that he does not believe the judge has a basis to find “clear and convincing evidence” that his client poses a danger.

He declined to comment on the question of whether DeStefano’s claim of family ties to organized crime is true.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for April 8.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.