BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — MIDDLETON — A Saugus man charged with beating a fellow inmate nearly unconscious in a Middleton Jail cell last month has pleaded not guilty to charges that include aggravated assault and battery.
During a hearing yesterday, Eric Guerriero’s bail was set at $25,000 cash; he’s not expected to post that bail because he’s currently serving a sentence on gun and drug charges.
The Sept. 17 incident left the victim, a 36-year-old Newbury man, hospitalized at Lahey Hospital in a medically induced coma and suffering brain injuries, according to court papers.
According to a report by a jail investigator, the victim was in a common area outside the cells, watching television, when Guerriero, 23, approached and motioned for him to go with him to a nearby cell, an encounter caught on video.
Sometime after that, shortly after 3 p.m., another inmate found the victim, who was awaiting trial on alleged restraining order violations, bleeding on the floor, incoherent, moaning and shaking. He turned the victim on his side so he would not choke on his own blood and told a second inmate, who immediately went to a corrections officer.
The victim suffered multiple head and facial injuries, according to the report. Photos show the man bleeding from his eye and mouth as he lay on a stretcher.
The entire confrontation, investigators learned, was witnessed by Guerriero’s cellmate, a Salem man awaiting trial on drunken-driving charges, who was using a phone at the time.
The cellmate initially told investigators that he “felt bad” because he thought Guerriero and the victim were only going to talk. But when jail investigators listened to a recording of the phone call the cellmate was on at the time, they heard him laughing and offering a blow-by-blow account.
He later admitted that the assault was Guerriero’s response to feeling “disrespected” by the victim during an earlier encounter in the gym.
The man who initially found the victim, a 35-year-old Salisbury resident, had grown up with the victim, he told investigators, but initially didn’t recognize him because of the severity of his injuries.
Guerriero is due back in court on Oct. 24 for a pretrial hearing in the case, which could be presented to a grand jury for indictment due to the seriousness of the injuries.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.