SALEM — A Salem man was sentenced to three to 4 1/2 years in state prison Monday after pleading guilty to beating another man with a baseball bat outside a Salem public housing complex in 2016.

Michael Castaldo, 27, had been scheduled to go to trial in Salem Superior Court when his attorney and a prosecutor reached a plea agreement in the case. 

And that agreement came after the victim of the beating, a 34-year-old Salem man, was prepared to testify for the defense in the case. 

Castaldo was arrested on July 31, 2016, after police were called to Rainbow Terrace, a low-income housing development next to Salem State University, for a stabbing. 

The victim had been stabbed seven times and struck with a baseball bat, which broke his back, police said at the time. The fight was over money. 

Castaldo was arrested after police "pinged" his cellphone to learn his location. He was charged with, and later indicted on, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (one count involving the bat and another count for the knife) as well as a charge of attempted murder. 

But the victim in the case was prepared to testify that Castaldo did not stab him and that they were involved in a mutual fight. 

That left prosecutor Jennifer Kirshenbaum with only the bloody baseball bat found in an adjacent apartment to link Castaldo to the beating. 

Kirshenbaum and defense lawyer Leslie Salter reached an agreement prior to the start of jury selection, and Judge Diane Freniere agreed to go along with the jointly requested sentence. Under the agreement, the assault and battery involving a knife and the attempted murder counts were dropped. 

Castaldo will receive credit for more than 800 days he's spent in custody, making him eligible for parole sometime next year. 

The victim is presently in custody in an unrelated matter. His attorney was present in court for the change of plea hearing Monday. 

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

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