James Stephenson, 39, of Salem, N.H., appeared in Middlesex Superior Court in Lowell Thursday in connection with charges stemming from an alleged assault in Dracut in September. (SUN/Meg McIntyre)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

LOWELL — A New Hampshire man charged with assaulting and violating the constitutional rights of a 22-year-old Dracut man with unspecified special needs will be back in court in January.

James Stephenson, 39, of Salem, appeared briefly in Middlesex Superior Court in Lowell Thursday, where a judge agreed to set a date of Jan. 10 to schedule future court appearances in the case.

His brother, Jeremy Stephenson, 36, of Plaistow, was also charged in the alleged assault, but died last week at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, according to an obituary. Assistant District Attorney Daniel J. Harren confirmed in court Thursday that Jeremy Stephenson is believed to be deceased, and said the state is working to obtain a copy of his death certificate.

Harren declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding Jeremy Stephenson’s death Thursday, referring questions to the District Attorney’s press office. A spokeswoman later said the office does not currently have any additional information related to the death.

The brothers were indicted by a grand jury last month in connection with an assault that allegedly occurred in Dracut on Sept. 27. According to a statement written by Harren, the victim was walking home from a convenience store on Mammoth Street when he encountered the Stephenson brothers, who were stopping to get beer, in the parking lot.

Jeremy Stephenson was driving and beeped his horn, yelling at the victim to move out of the way as he was crossing a parking spot, according to Harren’s statement. The victim responded, “boo hoo,” and continued walking, according to Harren.

Harren said both brothers got out of the car and confronted the victim on the sidewalk outside Palace Pizza. Multiple witnesses said they heard one of the brothers call the victim a racial slur before the victim was pushed through the restaurant’s plate glass window, the statement reads.

In self defense, the victim stabbed Jeremy Stephenson with a shard of glass, causing him to flee, according to the statement. James Stephenson then held the victim, who is African American, down, punching him and calling him a racial slur several times, Harren said. He allegedly told the victim, “You should go back to Africa,” and “If we were in New Hampshire I would have my .45 to take care of you,” according to Harren.

Both brothers were charged with civil rights violation injury, and assault and battery to intimidate with injury. Jeremy Stephenson was also charged with three counts of perjury for testifying before a grand jury that he did not call the 22-year-old a racial slur, did not punch the victim before being stabbed, and did not drive to 7-Eleven, according to prosecutors.

They were arraigned Dec. 2 and were allowed to go free on personal recognizance.

Outside the court room Thursday, James Stephenson declined to comment further.