Eric Sideri in court in 2012.SUN FILE PHOTOSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.
Eric Sideri in court in 2012. SUN FILE PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

Sun Staff and News Services

BOSTON -- The state Appeals Court has tossed the most serious conviction against the operator of a Tyngsboro pizzeria charged with using a baseball bat to beat an employee he suspected of stealing from him.

The court, in a Jan. 29 ruling, reversed a conviction for an assault-and-battery with a dangerous weapon charge against Eric Sideri of North Andover. He was sentenced to probation on lesser charges.

Sideri, a former operator of Angela's Coal Fired Pizza, filed documents in October asking that the conviction be overturned.

After a two-week trial and three days of deliberation, a jury found Sideri, 51, guilty in the March 2009 assault of Lucio "Lou" Oliveira, the former assistant general manager of Angela's.

Sideri was cleared of the charge of kidnapping, along with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, as well as making threats.

But his attorneys argued in last year's appeal that the trial judge erred by not allowing the jury to consider a lesser offense to the assault-and-battery charge. The appeal also claimed that the judge failed to properly instruct the jury on self-defense or poll the jury to see if the verdict was unanimous.

At the time the appeal was filed, the Middlesex District Attorney's office issued a statement saying the reversal should be rejected because "none of the defendant's claims has merit."

Sideri had been sentenced to four to five years in prison following his conviction in February 2012. The judge at his May 2012 sentencing also called for three years probation and the completion of an anger-management class.

Prosecutors said Sideri believed Oliveira had stolen $21,000 from the restaurant and ambushed him in the kitchen while he was working. Oliveira was reportedly bound with zip ties, hit in the mouth with a baseball bat and had a gun jammed in his mouth.

Oliveira denied taking the money, but promised to get it if released, and then fled the restaurant. Police say there was no evidence he stole the money.

Sideri's convictions on the charges of assault and battery and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle still stand, according to the court's decision.

Co-defendant Alfonso Guevara, 43, of Windham, N.H., faced the same charges as Sideri. A jury cleared Guevara of all charges.

Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, Sideri's lawyer, said she will now seek bail, which would allow Sideri to be released from prison.

The district attorney's office has 28 days to appeal the reversal.

Middlesex DA spokeswoman Stephanie Guyotte said in an email Wednesday night that the office was considering its "options in light of the Court's ruling and will be making a determination as to our course of action in this matter."

This report was compiled by Sun staff reporter Katie Lannan and the Associated Press. Follow Lannan on Twitter and Tout@KatieLannan.