WOBURN -- The former operator of a popular Tyngsboro pizzeria is a free man after he accepted a plea deal in a headline-grabbing assault case that allowed him to be released from prison after serving two years behind bars.

In Middlesex District Court on Wednesday, Eric Sideri's expression never changed but his wife, Christina, quietly wiped away tears, as the 51-year-old Andover resident accepted a plea deal of two years in jail -- deemed served -- for pleading guilty to assault and battery. The deal made him a free man.

Sideri, who has been in prison since February 2012, won a huge victory in January when the state Appeals Court overturned his most serious conviction of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a baseball bat) for allegedly beating an then-assistant manager at Angela's Coal Fired Pizza in Tyngsboro whom he suspected stole $21,000 from the business.

The Middlesex District Attorney's Office had the option to file a petition for a rehearing to try to reinstate the charge, instead Middlesex District Attorney opted for a plea to a lesser charge with time served.

Defense attorney Rosemarie Scapicchio said in Wednesday's hearing that this was a "good resolution" to this case. She didn't know if Sideri would return to managing the Tyngsboro pizzeria.

Sideri is out of prison, but now he is on probation for three years, during which time he has to complete an anger management class.

In February 2012, following a two-week trial and three days of deliberation, a jury found Sideri guilty of the March 22, 2009 assault of Lucio "Lou" Oliveira, a former assistant general manager of Angela's.

Sideri was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was cleared of the charge of kidnapping, along with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, as well as making threats. 

He was sentenced to four to five years in prison followed by three years probation and anger management.

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.

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

But Sideri's attorneys argued in last year's appeal to the state Appeals Court 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.

Follow Lisa Redmond on Tout and Twitter@lredmond13_lisa.