A woman was walking down Allston Street just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 26 when she saw two men standing over a third, one of them slamming the victim’s head into the pavement, she later told authorities. The woman ran toward the attackers and threw herself over the unconscious man on the ground.
When police arrived, she was sitting on the bloody sidewalk, cradling the head of the man, later identified by police as Michael Hudson, who had been homeless until recently.
“I think anybody would have done the same thing,” said his rescuer, a petite woman in her 20s who asked not to be named.
On Wednesday, two former college football players, including one from Boston College, pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court to charges stemming from the attack.
A three-month grand jury investigation identified Craig “C.J.” Parsons, 23, a senior at Boston College and a tight end on the school’s 2013 football team, and Anthony Varrichione, 23, a former Marist College backup quarterback, as the two men who assaulted Hudson.
Boston College barred Parsons from the campus until the charges are resolved. His lawyer said he was scheduled to graduate from BC this academic year.
Before their arraignment, the two suspects, who had played football together in high school, hugged in the hallway of the courthouse. They were released on their own recognizance and left without speaking to reporters.
Timothy Flaherty, who is Varrichione’s lawyer, said he expected his client to be vindicated.
“He’s never been in any difficulty before this,’’ Flaherty said. “He is hopeful that after a complete and through review of the facts of this incident, he will be exonerated.’’
Parsons’ lawyer, Michael Doolin, described his client as a “good kid, a hard-working kid from a nice family.’’
Doolin added: “We are in the process of investigating this case, and I think when all of the facts come out it will be apparent that C.J. Parsons is not guilty of these charges.’’
Hudson, now 51, suffered a hemorrhage in his brain as a result of the attack and was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in critical condition, prosecutors say. He has no memory of the assualt.
Prosecutors say Hudson, who had been homeless for most of his life but had recently secured housing in Allston, was panhandling for money and food around 2 a.m. on Jan. 26. A group of men on the porch of 74 Allston St. repeatedly told him to go away, according to witness statements in the police report, shouting, “This is the last time!”
But Hudson did not leave the area, and prosecutors say that Parsons and Varrichione attacked him while he stood outside the gated chain link fence surrounding 74 Allston St.
Hudson was punched several times and knocked unconscious, prosecutors say, and Parsons allegedly slammed Hudson’s head into the sidewalk three or four times before the woman who witnessed the encounter threw her body atop Hudson.
As she lay on Hudson, one of the men tried to spit on him, prosecutors say. Other witnesses then came to Hudson’s aid, and Parsons and Varrichione left the area, prosecutors say.
In a statement, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley lauded the passersby for acting to protect an assault victim, especially the woman who acted as a shield.
“That bravery and compassion is in stark contrast to the cruel and craven nature of this assault,’’ Conley said.
During the investigation of the attack, prosecutors say, Parsons approached at least one witness on four separate occasions and asked the witness not to reveal his identity to investigators. Parsons and Varrichione were charged with aggravated assault and battery and aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Parsons was also charged with violating the state’s witness intimidation statute.
On Wednesday, a person who answered the door at 74 Allston St. declined to say who lived there or whether he knew Parsons and Varrichione. Neighbors were surprised to hear of the attack, describing the busy residential street as being home to a mix of longtime residents and college students.
“I’m really shocked,” said Bojan Mandaric, 32, who lives next door to 74 Allston St. “I wouldn’t call this area unsafe. Actually, far from that.”
After learning of the charges against Parsons, Boston College banned him from campus until the criminal case is resolved, a disciplinary act that could prevent Parsons from graduating with his class this spring.
“In light of these disturbing allegations, Craig Parsons has been issued a summary suspension from Boston College,’’ BC spokesman Jack Dunn said in an e-mail. “He will have no access to the campus until the matter is resolved. ‘’
Varrichione is a recent graduate of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he played football, said his lawyer and a spokesman for the school. On the football team’s website, Varrichione is listed as a backup quarterback for the 2011 season. Both Parsons and Varrichione played football at Xaverian High School in Westwood, according to their biographies and lawyers.
According to the BC football website, Parsons played tight end for the 2013 team, is 6 feet 6 inches tall, and weighs 253 pounds. When he was at Marist, Varrichione was listed at 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 225 pounds.
Hudson could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He no longer has an active driver’s license; his right to drive has been suspended at least eight times after he was found guilty of drug charges in Boston courtrooms in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2005, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Homeless people out on the street are among the most vulnerable people in the city, said Elizabeth Doyle, deputy director for Supportive Housing in Boston, who works to provide housing for the homeless.
“It makes me feel upset that someone would take advantage of somebody who is in a vulnerable situation; it’s obviously disgraceful behavior,” Doyle said. “I think it makes us work harder to reach out to folks who need housing the most.”
Maria Cramer of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.