DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – Four Detroit men have been bound over for trial in the severe beating of a suburban man who accidentally struck a 10-year-old with his pickup truck on Detroit’s east side.
Fifty-four-year-old Steve Utash spent days in a coma after the April 2 beating. The boy is recovering from a broken leg.
The courtroom was packed, Monday morning, as suspects are 17-year-old Bruce Wimbush Jr., 19-year-old Latrez Cummings, 24-year-old James Davis and 30-year-old Wonzey Saffold faced a judge.
All four have been charged with assault with intent to murder.
Proceeding began as Wimbush, through his attorney, asked to waive his right to Monday’s hearing. Wearing a green jumpsuit while the others wore yellow, Wimbush answered no when asked by the judge if he had any trouble reading, writing or understanding the English language.
It appears he will be tried separately from the other three. A hearing was schedule for him in Wayne County Circuit Court on April 28.
After Wimbush was led from the courtroom, witness Ashley Daniels called, who testified that she saw Utash stomped on.
Daniels testified that Saffold was “waving a gun around,” and had pointed the weapon in Utash’s direction before joining a group of 15 to 20 people who were beating Utash. At that point, the prosecutor requested felony firearms charges be added for Saffold.
Next, Deborah Hughes — the nurse credited with stepping in to save Utash — took the witness stand wearing a t-shirt that reads “I’m not participating in the recession — testified that she was there when Utash pulled over.
“He said, ‘Oh my God, I hit a boy! Is he dead? Is he dead… did I hurt him’ He was just saying a lot of things real fast … He was very upset,” she said.
Hughes said she later heard Utash yell, “No!” and “Help me!” as he was hit and kicked in the head.
She initially was unable pick out the man she says beat Utash, but eventually identified Cummings — who apparently has a new hair style — as one of the assailants.
Hughes said she heard people shouting, “You hit my nephew, or you hit my cousin,” and that Cummings, specifically, yelled, “I’m going to kill him!” In cross-examination, she said Cummings kicked Utash maybe 10 times.
Hughes said she had a gun with her that day, but didn’t draw her weapon. She said didn’t see anyone else with a gun at the scene.
Detroit Police Sgt. John Boyle was called to the stand to testify about statements made by the defendants.
Davis allegedly admitted that he kicked Utash two or three times.
Reading a statement made to police, Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsay said Cummings admitted that he “maybe” punched Utash and had kicked him “like twice in his back and in his butt cheek.”
According to a statement, Saffold also admitted to kicking Utash.
His attorney argues that, if his client had a gun, he could have killed Utash if he’d wanted to; so, he says, intent to murder is an overcharge.
Judge Thomas Jackson disagreed, saying that there is sufficient probable cause for Saffold to stand trial as charged.
Next to be called to the witness stand was Anton Sykes, whose attorney stated would like to “plead the fifth.” The judge denied that request.
Arguing with the judge and prosecutors, Sykes was uncooperative, repeating again and again that he didn’t see anything; and that he didn’t know anything — denying that he made a statement to police about witnessing the attack. Sykes said, basically, that he’d signed a piece of paper stating that he knew some people in the neighborhood, and that someone must have later added some fictitious quotes.
“You don’t want him to know that you gave a statement against him, don’t you?” asked Lindsey.
“What do you mean want him to know? Where’s it at? Show me me writing … show me some audio tape of me saying this … Where’s it at?” Sykes said.
“Weren’t you trying to get the reward for this?” Lindsey replied. “Didn’t you want to remain anonymous and collect the reward?”
“Miss Lady, Miss Lady … you’ve got it twisted,” Sykes said.
The young man was eventually led away in handcuffs. He’ll be held on $500,000 bond, the judge said, to ensure he will testify at trial.
Meantime, a juvenile trial is set for June 23 for a 16-year-old on charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation. His lawyer denies racial motivation by the black youth against the white man.
Last week, a judge set a $400,000 bond for a Detroit teen accused of throwing the first punch in the brutal beating.
The 16-year-old was arraigned last Saturday at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of assault and ethnic intimidation in the attack that left Utash clinging to life.
“What actually occurred was the savage beating of an innocent man,” Prosecutor Matthew Penney said during the hearing. “By his own admission, he was one of the first to throw punches.”
WWJ’s Kathryn Larson reported, the teen, clad in gray jail garb, was clearly nervous during the proceedings and even asked for a tissue for his sweaty hands. His parents became visibly upset when they were told they couldn’t hug their son goodbye before he was taken away.
The 16-year-old is the only defendant currently facing hate crime charges; Utash is white, his attackers are black.
Utash remains hospitalized in intensive care.
“He’s ain’t doing good now,” Utash brother, Max Mohr, told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas and other reporters outside the courtroom Monday. “We thought that he was starting to come out back, but he’s not.”
“It’s hard to hear them say that, oh, they only kicked him once or twice. Does it really matter how many times you kicked him?”
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