SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 18, 2014

Second judge rules Endicott student a danger

Not swayed by letters of support from family, friends

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — A second judge has decided that former Endicott College student Dillon DeStefano, charged in a series of random “knockout” attacks on fellow students last month, poses too great a danger to the public to release under any terms.

In a ruling late last week, Judge John Lu pointed to DeStefano’s alleged reference to family mob ties as he warned a witness not to say anything to authorities.

“Dillon came in and was just, like, like you didn’t, don’t say you saw anything,” Lu quoted from the transcript of the witness’s grand jury testimony. “My grandfather’s a powerful person down in New Jersey, he’s got connections, affiliations, I guess, with the mob. He’s always said that. He’s like, just keep your mouth shut. Don’t say anything. This will all be taken care of. I’ll get a high profile lawyer ... we got your back. Don’t worry about it.”

“Mr. DeStefano attempted to intimidate the witness,” Lu concluded after reading the grand jury transcript and other documents.

And, the judge found, the only motive appeared to be “pleasure.”

“Mr. DeStefano is captured on surveillance video re-enacting one of the attacks and laughing,” the judge wrote. “Some or all of the attacks appear to have been in ‘sucker-punch’ fashion.”

Lu called the attacks “notable for their ferocity.”

DeStefano, 19, of River Vale, N.J., has been indicted on and pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault and battery on a person causing serious bodily injury and a charge of assault and battery, all stemming from the series of random assaults on fellow Endicott students in the early-morning hours of Feb. 2.

One student suffered five fractures to his eye socket and another suffered a broken and dislocated jaw that has been wired shut for nearly two months. A third student, put in a headlock, escaped serious injury, prosecutors said.

Lu’s ruling means that DeStefano will continue to be held without bail at Middleton Jail. While the order is in effect for 90 days, that time does not include any time spent awaiting defense-filed motions in the case and means he could be in custody until trial.

DeStefano’s family has hired three high-profile attorneys, Martin Weinberg, William Cintolo and Ray Buso, to represent him in the case.

But their efforts, including a lengthy memorandum and letters from 19 family members, friends, doctors, coaches and even a New Jersey police sergeant, failed to persuade Lu to release DeStefano to the custody of his parents.

DeStefano’s attorneys also said that he could work for his grandfather’s real estate development business in New Jersey.

The letters describe a very different person than the one charged.

Sgt. Frank Ferrigno of the Peterson, N.J., police department, said he believes DeStefano to be a “peace-loving, courteous” young man. “In the line of work I am in, I’ve seen young men get themselves in trouble. Sometimes these young men have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I truly believe that Dillon would never intentionally hurt another person.”

An uncle, Jon DeStefano, wrote to urge the judge to “see past the media hype” about the case. A family friend, Michael Clark Bamrick, wrote that he has been “appalled at the way he has been portrayed on the Internet.”

And one family friend, Douglas McDonough, wrote that he believes the Massachusetts court procedure to determine whether someone is a danger is “idiotic.”

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