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Two brothers face civil rights charges after attack on black man outside Dracut store

Two New Hampshire brothers are facing criminal civil rights charges for allegedly attacking an African-American man with special needs, pushing him through a plate-glass window of a Dracut pizza shop, and using racist slurs during the assaults, authorities said.

The incident took place on Sept. 27 when the victim left a 7-Eleven in Dracut and stopped to say hello to a friend parked in front of the neighboring Palace Pizza, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office.

After greeting his friend, the victim was cutting across the lot when brothers Jeremy and James Stephenson drove in, planning on buying beer, Ryan’s office wrote in court papers. James Stephenson, 36, had argued with the mother of his child, and his older brother, 39-year-old Jeremy, was driving him and his wife to his house in Salem, N.H., for the night, officials said.


The victim’s path prevented Jeremy Stephenson, who was driving, from immediately pulling into a parking spot and he started shouting at the victim, who replied by saying, “boo hoo,” prosecutors say.

Jeremy stepped out from the driver’s side of the vehicle and continued to shout at the victim, who was on the passenger side, according to Ryan’s office. The victim moved onto the sidewalk and was then confronted by both brothers, prosecutors allege.

“Both Jeremy and James punched [the victim] as he moved down the sidewalk,’’ prosecutors wrote and began pushing the victim towards the door and plate-glass window on the pizza shop. The victim “went through the window, shattering it, as a result of the attack.”

But before he was pushed through the window, “multiple witnesses heard one of the brothers” calling the victim a racist slur, prosecutors wrote. The victim picked up a piece of glass and stabbed James Stephenson in an act of self-defense, prosecutors said.


Jeremy Stephenson fled, but James remained and continued to assault the victim. “While holding [the victim] down and punching him,” James called the victim a racist slur several times. He also allegedly told him, “You should go back to Africa” and “if we were in New Hampshire, I would have my .45 take care of you,” prosecutors said.

According to Ryan’s office, James Stephenson is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 270 pounds; the victim weights 160 pounds and is about 5 feet 11 inches tall.

Dracut police responded to the scene and James Stephenson allegedly told a black police officer, “get your brother out of here before I kill him,’’ prosecutors said.

The men are charged with civil rights violations and assault and battery with intent to intimidate. They have pleaded not guilty in Middlesex Superior Court and were released on personal recognizance, according to court records.

Jeremy Stephenson is also charged with three counts of perjury for allegedly lying when he testified before the grand jury that investigated the incident. He allegedly falsely testified that he never called the victim a racist slur, he said that he never punched the victim, and he denied driving the car into the parking lot, prosecutors said.

The defense attorneys did not immediately return a telephone call from the Globe seeking a comment.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.