SALEM — All Patrick Payne was trying to do was calm everyone down after a night of arguing appeared to be escalating toward violence.
For his trouble, Payne, now 27, still bears a scar across his forehead, where the 1.75-liter “handle” bottle of Southern Comfort, still half-full of booze, came crashing down onto it in the early morning hours of Oct. 9, 2010.
Yesterday, Matthew Rosa, 24, admitted in court that he was the man responsible for that blow to Payne’s head.
As Rosa was about to be led away to begin serving six months in jail, he turned toward Payne.
“I just want to tell you guys I’m sorry for what I did,” Rosa told Payne and his family, seated in the Salem District Court gallery for what had been originally scheduled as a trial.
“Thank you,” Payne said.
Rosa was already on probation in another assault case — coincidentally in the same Bridge Street area where the assault on Payne occurred — and a witness intimidation and assault case in Peabody when he showed up at the home of his girlfriend’s sister for an after-hours gathering.
At some point, Rosa began making fun of a shirt worn by another guest, Derek Fields, and the two men got into a heated argument, prosecutor Heidi Sylvanowicz told a judge.
Rosa was asked to leave, and he did.
Shortly after that, another guest noticed that his keys were missing. Several of the guests found Rosa outside and asked him if he had taken them.
Things got heated again, Sylvanowicz told Judge Robert Brennan. Rosa got into his car, and then got back out, toting the bottle and heading toward Fields.
Payne got in between the two men, hoping to defuse the situation, Sylvanowicz told the judge.
But it was too late. Rosa swung the half-full bottle, striking Payne. Payne immediately fell to the ground, bleeding from his head, the prosecutor said. Rosa ran to his car and sped away.