Four men accused of beating Detroit motorist Steven Utash, who accidentally hit a 10-year-old boy who ran in front of his truck, have been ordered to trial on attempted murder charges. Their pretrial hearing on Monday was a bit of a circus.
According to The Detroit News
, some in attendance yelled objections during the trial, a group self-identified as the family of one of the defendants laughed at a description of the assault, and one defendant gave the middle finger to a photographer. all while the family of Utash, who remains in intensive care, sat silently.
Wonzey Saffold, 30, James Davis, 24, Latrez Cummings, 19, and Bruce Wimbush Jr., 17, were part of a larger group that allegedly beat Utash, 54, on April 2. He was getting out of his vehicle to help the boy he hit when the mob gathered and attacked. Utash was beaten into a coma, while the child suffered an injury to his leg and is expected to make a full recovery.
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Witness Deborah Hughes testified at the hearing. "They were hollerin' and screamin', 'Oh, my God, get him, get him,'" she said of the mob. She rushed to Utash's side, stopping the assault. She said Cummings kicked the victim at least 10 times.
"I pray for the man every day. I hope him and the boy are going to be OK," Cummings told police, according to Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey.
Ashley Daniels, another witness, confirmed that Utash left his vehicle to help the boy when he was attacked. He stumbled after sustaining a few initial blows, and was dared to pick up a hat that was knocked off his head.
"He fell. He got up again," she said, according to the New York Daily News
. "It was like he was almost accepting it."
Daniels said Saffold waived a gun at Utash about the time she retreated to her car. By that time she said 15 to 20 people were kicking and beating Utash, who is a tree-trimmer by trade.
Anton Sykes, 30, another witness, argued with visiting 36th District Judge Thomas Jackson. He said a police statement with his initials was doctored, and denied telling police he saw Davis stomping Utash. He was placed in handcuffs and held on $500,000 bond to ensure his testimony.
As he was escorted out of the courtroom blowing kisses, some onlookers began shouting and leaving, which prompted the judge to threaten contempt of court and yell out "Respect where you are; if you can’t do that, get out of here right now."
16-year-old Courtney Robinson was also arrested in connection to the beating, and will be tried as a juvenile. In addition to assault with intent to do great bodily harm, the juvenile is charged with ethnic intimidation.
Previously, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the department was looking into the possibility that the incident was racially motivated and may constitute a hate crime. Utash is white. Those who attacked him are black.
Utash’s brother-in-law Max Mohr said the courtroom behavior of those associated with the defendants was disgusting. "Why would you laugh about someone being in the hospital?" Mohr said. "To make a mockery in the courtroom . . . what can you do?"
During his testimony, he said Utash is still disoriented, and struggling. Nurses tried to help him walk, and he only made it a few steps. "He’s not the Steve I know — not even close."
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