Former Boston College tight end C.J. Parsons and ex-Marist quarterback Anthony Varrichione have been charged in connection with the alleged beating of a homeless man in January.
Authorities also stated Parsons slammed the unconscious man's head against the ground "from three to four times" before a female passerby broke up the attack by throwing herself over the victim.
Parsons, who turns 23 on Thursday, of West Newton, Mass., and Varrichione, 23, of Medway, Mass., pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday to charges of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious injury.
Parsons also pleaded not guilty to violating the witness intimidation statute, after prosecutors said he "approached one witness on four separate occasions and requested the witness not cooperate with investigators." The 6-foot-6, 253-pound Parsons, who had nine catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns for BC in 2013 and is due to graduate, told the witness "not to reveal his identity to investigators."
"In light of these disturbing allegations, Craig Parsons has been issued a summary suspension from Boston College," university spokesman Jack Dunn said. "He will have no access to the campus and is barred from all University activities until the matter is resolved."
The charges come after a three-month grand jury investigation, which included interviews with 17 civilian witnesses, identified the men as the assailants, according to a statement by the district attorney.
At approximately 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, Parsons and Varrichione got into a verbal confrontation with Michael Hudson, a then-50-year-old former homeless man, who was panhandling for money outside a home at 74 Allston Street, according to prosecutors.
After repeatedly telling Hudson to "go away," the former college football players -- who had been teammates at Xaverian Brothers High in Westwood, Mass. -- allegedly punched and kicked Hudson "multiple times" and knocked him unconscious. The attack was only interrupted when a female passerby covered Hudson's body with her own.
The woman reported that one of the two assailants attempted to spit on Hudson while she was covering him.
The assailants fled the scene as more witnesses called 911.
"As disturbing as this attack was, it also showed the courage of the passersby who refused to look the other way when they saw someone being hurt," Suffolk County district attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement. "That bravery and compassion is in stark contrast to the cruel and craven nature of this assault."
Hudson was taken by ambulance to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in critical condition and diagnosed with bleeding on the brain. The statement from the district attorney said Hudson is "expected to survive but has no memory of the assault."
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Michael P. Doolin, Parsons' attorney, said he thinks "the defense has a strong case."
"He's a good kid from a very, very nice family," Doolin said of Parsons. "He looks forward to litigating this case in Suffolk Superior Court and it's his belief and our belief that he'll be exonerated."
Parsons and Varrichione were released on personal recognizance and are due back in court on June 4.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.