Teen Who Orchestrated Attack That Set Classmate on Fire Is Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

Daily Mail (London), December 20, 2012

A teenager convicted of orchestrating an attack on a middle school classmate who was soaked in alcohol and lit ablaze was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday even as he continued to insist on his innocence.

Circuit Judge Matthew Destry agreed with prosecutors that Matthew Bent, 18, deserved the same sentence as the youth who flicked the lighter during the 2009 attack on Michael Brewer, who was then 15.

Michael Brewer in 2009.

Michael Brewer in 2009.

Although Bent did not set the fire or pour the flammable liquid, Destry said he was just as much to blame. Bent was convicted of aggravated battery in June.

‘I cannot ignore that, but for Mr. Bent’s orchestration of these events, none of this would have happened,’ Destry said.

Before he was sentenced, Bent turned and apologized to Brewer but said he was not the ringleader.

‘I didn’t intend for any of this to happen,’ he said. ‘I didn’t tell nobody to do that.’

Bent faced a charge of attempted second-degree murder after prosecutors say he offered friends money in 2009 to harm Brewer, who was doused in rubbing alcohol and set on fire in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Matthew Bent

Matthew Bent

{snip}

Mr Brewer suffered severe burns over 65 percent of his body but survived after leaping into an apartment complex swimming pool.

{snip}

A defense attorney said the three years that Bent has been in jail awaiting trial was already a hefty penalty.

‘He thought that three years for his involvement was quite substantial,’ said defense attorney Perry Thurston, Jr. ‘He’s disappointed.’

Bent and two other teens were charged with second-degree attempted murder, which carries a prison sentence of as many as 30 years.

Denver ‘D.C.’ Jarvis, 17, and 18-year-old Jesus Mendez pleaded no contest earlier and were sentenced to eight and 11 years behind bars, respectively.

Bent faces a maximum term of 15 years at his sentencing hearing on July 23. {snip}

Bent initially intended to plead no contest as well, but backed out at the last minute and opted for trial. His attorneys insisted he was not the instigator of the attack and never intended to hurt Mr Brewer.

{snip}

Mr Brewer testified that he stayed home from school the day of the attack because he was afraid of Bent. The two had gotten into a dispute over a marijuana pipe that Bent was trying to force Mr Brewer to buy, Mr Brewer testified. Bent then allegedly tried to steal a bicycle belonging to Mr Brewer’s father, which led to Bent’s arrest.

‘I was afraid,’ Mr Brewer testified. ‘I thought something was going to happen to me.’

After school the day of the attack, Mr Brewer decided to visit a friend at a nearby apartment complex. On the way he encountered a group of boys including Bent, Jarvis and Mendez.

The boys had found a jug of rubbing alcohol by chance on a low wall alongside the complex, and Jarvis testified that Bent offered him $5 or $10 to pour it on Mr Brewer. Other boys said Bent offered the group $5 each to punch Mr Brewer.

Jarvis did douse Mr Brewer and Mendez then flicked a lighter he was holding, sparking the blaze. In a statement to police, Mendez said he never expected the liquid to ignite so explosively.

Mr Brewer spent months in the hospital, undergoing seven skin graft operations, followed by months more of rehabilitation and physical therapy. He testified that he still feels pain in his back and legs but said he remembers little after diving into the pool.

‘I started getting really cold, and then I started seeing blur,’ Mr Brewer said. ‘When I stand too long my legs start to burn. I can barely move.’

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