SALEM — A Peabody man has been charged with "sucker punching" a bouncer outside a downtown Salem bar in May, leaving him with serious injuries.
Austin Boga, 23, of 6 Shamrock St., Peabody, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon during his arraignment in Salem District Court.
Boga appeared in court with his attorney after learning that Salem police had obtained a warrant for his arrest last week, following a lengthy investigation.
That investigation involved comparing cellphone video taken by a witness at the scene to social media images of a group of individuals connected to Boga. Police also conducted a number of interviews, including one last week with Boga.
The incident occurred shortly after midnight on May 28 outside of O'Neill's Pub on Washington Street, not long after a bouncer removed a couple from the bar following a disturbance inside.
Once outside, the male patron, Anthony Miglionico, began to struggle with the bouncer. Miglionico is being summonsed to court on a charge of assault and battery on that bouncer, according to a police report.
While Miglionico was struggling with the first bouncer, a second bouncer tried to assist. That's when, police say, Boga jumped into the fray, sucker punching the second bouncer on the side of his head.
The blow shattered that bouncer's eye socket and cheekbone, police said, and sent him to the pavement, where he struck his head. He suffered a concussion and a 3 1/2-inch wound, police said in the report.
The bouncer is still suffering visual problems and headaches, prosecutor Erin Bellavia told a judge, and has had to quit his job as a result of the attack.
Detective Sgt. Kristian Hanson pieced the case together by comparing video from a bystander's cellphone, nicknames that the group had used in the bar, and Facebook posts.
The investigation led him to a woman who was a friend of Boga. She eventually agreed to share a series of Facebook messages in which Boga allegedly told her, "That dude that went in the ambulance. I blasted him," and "Yeah, that dude that was under the car, that's the dude I hit. Knocked him out 1 hit."
In speaking with police on June 21, Boga said he was trying to break up the fight and that he was punched in the head, requiring three stitches. He denied punching the injured bouncer.
Bellavia, who asked Judge Emily Karstetter to set bail at $5,000, noted that Boga had just completed a term of probation in a Lynn assault and battery case on April 28.
Boga's lawyer, Peter Lawton, did not specifically address the charges in court, instead taking issue with the length of Bellavia's bail argument. "You would think they're actually trying the case this morning," Lawton told the judge.
He stressed Boga's willingness to speak to the detective last week. "He didn't lawyer up," said Lawton. "He didn't hide. He gave his version."
And once he learned of the warrant, said Lawton, Boga agreed to turn himself in at the court on the first day that Lawton was available. He urged no more than $500 bail.
"I am troubled by the seriousness of the allegations," said Karstetter, who also cited Boga's record. She called the prosecution's request "reasonable" and set bail at $5,000.
Boga's mother posted that bail, in cash, immediately after the hearing.
Boga has been ordered to stay away from the victim while the case is pending. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Aug. 2.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.