SALEM — Lawyers for a man and woman charged with assaulting another woman during a brawl outside a downtown Salem bar last October say video they have obtained contradicts witness statements and parts of a police report.
The attorneys for Amanda Ricko and Xavier Negro say the video, from cameras outside the Peabody Essex Museum, suggests that at a minimum, Jayda Byrne, 20, a Salem State University student from Woburn, was more of a mutual combatant than innocent bystander who told news media that she was "dragged" into the fight while simply walking to her car with a friend in the early morning hours of Oct. 12.
Ricko, 25, of Peabody and Negron, 27, of Revere, made a brief appearance in Salem District Court for a pretrial hearing in the case Thursday with their attorneys, Scott Dullea and Ernest Stone.
Negron's father, Angel Negron, 50, of 6 Ropes St., Salem, pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault and battery later on Thursday, appearing in court in response to a summons. He was taken into custody after prosecutors sought bail in his case.
In the museum video, which Stone and Dullea showed to a reporter, Byrne's friend William Martines, 20, of Billerica, can be seen in a fight with Xavier Negron outside the Village Tavern on Essex Street. Martines, who was later charged with assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and violating the city's knife ordinance, was part of a group with Byrne that night, Stone said.
As the video continues, Byrne is seen running up behind Xavier Negron and making contact with him. He turns and punches her. stone said his client, a Navy veteran and criminal justice major at Bay State College, didn't realize that he'd hit a woman and was simply reacting to being struck.
Ricko then appeared to kick Byrne. Angel Negron is also charged with punching Byrne. His attorney, Meghan Taylor, said during a bail hearing that he was just trying to break up a fight. "He won't do that again," Taylor said.
The video does not show Xavier Negron slamming Byrne's head into the pavement, as suggested in witness statements and a police report.
Moments later, as the Negrons and Ricko are walking away, Byrne is seen approaching them from behind and striking Ricko, who landed on the pavement and lost consciousness. She was taken to Salem Hospital, with her eye swollen shut and abrasions on her face. Byrne also suffered abrasions and a gash over her eye. She told reporters in October that she lost teeth.
When police arrived, they described the encounter between Ricko and Byrne as "mutual combat" and put Byrne into handcuffs, but she was ultimately not charged by police. Dullea said Ricko is planning to seek a criminal complaint against Byrne.
"It's not at all what it was portrayed," said Stone, who suggested that there was "very much a rush to judgment."
As a cell phone video went viral on social media and local television stations interviewed Byrne, Ricko and Negron faced threats — both online and in real time.
Extra security was brought into the courtroom and Salem police were asked to watch the outside of the courthouse at their arraignment in October, the lawyers said, after threats against their clients.
Their clients have also been vilified.
"In this social media age, a lie gets around the world before the truth gets its pants on," Dullea said, paraphrasing a famous quote.
Neither Ricko, a Suffolk University graduate who, as an undergraduate, worked on proposed legislation to assist homeless families find housing, nor Xavier Negron have criminal records, their lawyers said.
Angel Negron was being held on $500 bail as of Thursday afternoon.
Judge Randy Chapman also watched the video before setting the bail.
"I'm not sure I'd describe it as exculpatory," said the judge, "but it would appear there was some degree of mutual affray here."
All of the defendants are due back in court on Feb. 20.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.