DETROIT (WWJ) – Trial dates have been set for later this summer for four men charged in the mob beating of Steven Utash, who spent days in a coma after the beating he suffered when he stopped to check on a 10-year-old boy he’d struck with his pickup truck.
At an arraignment in Wayne County Circuit Court on Monday, not guilty pleas were entered on behalf of 17-year-old Bruce Wimbush Jr., 19-year-old Latrez Cummings, 24-year-old James Davis and 30-year-old Wonzey Saffold — all charged with assault with intent to murder.
Speaking before a packed courtroom, Wayne County Circuit Judge James warned audience member that outbursts and gestures would earn them a night in jail and a $250 fine.
He lowered bonds from $500,000 to $100,000 for Wimbash and Davis, and lowered bond from $500,000 to $25,000 for Cummings, on the condition he wear a GPS tracking tether if he’s released.
Ray Paige — defense attorney for Saffold, who remains behind bars on his original $500,000 bond — deferred bond for his client until a June hearing.
He called the bonds set Monday “excessive.”
“We got people in the community right now that’s charged with second degree murder out on personal bond,” said Paige. “So, I’ve been doing this for 25 years; I think the bond is excessive.”
“I know that the community is outraged about what occurred to Mr. Utash, but we want to be fair on both sides,” he added.
A trial date was scheduled for Aug. 18 for Cummings and Saffold. Wimbush and Davis are scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 25.
Paige believes separate trials will help each defendant get a fair shake in this case.
“You know, at the end of the day they may start pointing at each other; saying, no, they’re mistaken, it’s the other guy,” Paige said.”Or, I wasn’t a culpable as you think I am, because this guy forced me to do something.”
According to witnesses, a couple dozen Detroit neighbors just stood around and watched as as many as 12 men punched, kicked, and stomped on the 54-year-old victim, who’d been driving home from his job as a tree-trimmer. A local nurse has been credited with stepping in to stop the attack.
Cummings’ brother came to his defense following the hearing.
“It ain’t what it really is; I mean, like we’ve got videos and all that from when we was younger…you can tell…he’s not the type of person like that,
he told WWJ’s Ron Dewey and other reporters. “He just, I mean, seeing his friend doing it — that’s why he done it, too.”
A judge, earlier this month, 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 at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of assault and ethnic intimidation in the attack that left Utash clinging to life. He is the only defendant currently facing hate crime charges; Utash is white, his alleged attackers are black.
Utash, who suffered serious head injuries, remained in ICU at St. John Hospital on Monday. The boy recovered from non-life-threatening injuries.
[Catch up on this story HERE].