Benjamin Espino, 43, of 105 Boxford St. in Lawrence, Massachusetts, avoided jail time for charges that he beat a transgender woman outside a club after she danced with his wife. Instead, Espino was handed five years of probation after pleading guilty to three counts of assault and battery and a civil rights violation.
If Espino complies with the terms of the probation, the civil rights violation will be wiped off his record. This type of provision is considered to be unusual for a Superior Court case. Espino must attend an anger management course and wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet as part of his probation.
The assault took place outside the Ward 6 Social Club in Lawrence on November 19, 2016. The victim, then 20, was apparently a friend of Espino’s common-law wife. They were at the club with several others when Espino’s wife began dancing with the woman.
Espino, who, according to the prosecutor, was angered by what he saw, shouted, “Why are you dancing with that,” followed by an epithet directed at the victim.
Espino later attacked the victim as the group left the club that evening, kicking her with his work boots, punching her, and later ripping off braids she was wearing. He uttered the same slur during the attack.
Prosecutor Kristen Buxton told Judge Thomas Drechsler that she was not looking for jail time, but, due to the significant emotional trauma the victim suffered, felt that Espino should face a long period of probation.
He faces a lot more if he violates the conditions of his probation. One of the assault and battery counts involved a dangerous weapon (Espino’s work boots); that is a felony. Espino could face up to 10 years in prison if he violates his probation.
Meanwhile, Espino’s attorney, Denise Regan, said the conditions are fair as his actions were a result of his alcohol consumption that night. Regan noted that Espino has five children and a sixth on the way. He reportedly supports his growing family by working for a tree service, trimming branches for utility companies.
“You, more than most, have an awful lot to lose, with a big family like yours, if you drink,” Judge Drechsler warned Espino.
Drechsler also told Espino that he is barred from contacting, even indirectly, the victim or any other person who was a witness against him in the case. The warning came after prosecutor Buxton told the judge that some communication between the parties had taken place on social media earlier in the case.