Youths Who Beat White Motorist to Within an Inch of His Life After He Accidentally Hit Child with Pick-up Truck Face Court
Daily Mail (London), April 21, 2014
Four men accused of punching and kicking a motorist who accidentally struck a 10-year-old Detroit boy were ordered Monday to stand trial on attempted murder charges, after a judge reviewed their statements to police and witnesses testified about the chaotic mob attack.
As Steve Utash continued to recover in a hospital bed, Judge Thomas Jackson found probable cause to move the case to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey introduced statements to police from Latrez Cummings, 19, James Davis, 24, and Wonzey Saffold, 30, all acknowledging a role in the April 2 attack. They were ordered to trial, along with Bruce Wimbush Jr., 17, who waived the hearing.
‘I pray for the man every day. I hope him and the boy are going to be OK,’ Cummings told police, according to Lindsey.
Witnesses to the attack described a chaotic scene.
‘They were hollerin’ and screamin’, “Oh, my God, get him, get him,”’ witness Deborah Hughes testified.
Hughes, a nurse, is credited with rushing to the boy’s side and also intervening to save Utash from further injuries. She said Cummings likely kicked the victim at least 10 times.
Another witness, Ashley Daniels, said Utash was attacked after he got out of his pickup to check on the boy. She said he was stumbling and his hat was knocked off after some early blows.
Daniels said Utash was dared to pick up his hat before he was hit again.
‘He fell. He got up again,’ she said. ‘It was like he was almost accepting it.’
The Detroit Free Press reports that one witness, Anton Sykes, 30, denied a statement prosecutors say he previously gave to police.
District Court Judge Thomas Jackson, frustrated with Sykes, said the man was ‘defiant’ and likely to disappear if he was released from the courtroom.
Jackson ordered Sykes jailed on $500,000 bond for trying to avoid testifying.
Statements to police indicate that three of four men recognized the boy and had revenge on their mind.
‘I saw the little boy on the ground … and I lost it,’ Saffold told investigators.
Utash suffered severe head injuries, while David Harris, the boy he ran into, was treated for a leg and other injuries. Police quickly ruled that it had been an accident.
‘It was determined that the driver of the vehicle wouldn’t have had any chance of stopping,’ a Detroit police spokesman told Mail Online.
Utash, 54, of Macomb County’s Clinton Township, is a tree trimmer who was familiar with the east side Detroit neighborhood where a boy darted out in front of his pickup. He spent days in a coma after the beating.
Utash’s family sat in the front row of the courtroom, while relatives of the accused men sat directly behind them in three rows. There were deep sighs, sobbing and muffled utterances of ‘liar’ during the testimony. Some spectators were ejected by sheriff’s deputies.
Jackson noted that the legal threshold to keep the case moving at this stage is low. Defense attorneys said Utash’s injuries were awful but an attempted murder charge was too severe.
‘One or two may not be enough to kill anyone,’ the judge said of punches and kicks, ‘but a combination may be enough to cause one’s death.’
Separately, a 16-year-old boy is charged in Juvenile Court with assault and ethnic intimidation in the case. He and the other defendants are black; Utash is white.
‘In the case of the 16-year-old charged as a juvenile we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crimes of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation,’ Kym Worthy, Wayne County’s prosecutor, said.
‘In the case of the four adult defendants that have been charged, the facts and the evidence does not support a charge of ethnic intimidation.’
Family members announced yesterday that Utash finally came out of an induced coma.
His daughter Mandi Emerick, who started a GoFundMe page to cover her dad’s medical bills, said Utash is now off the ventilator, but experiences horrible flashbacks.
‘Sometimes he can look at me and remember who I am and other times he can’t. Today when I asked him how old he is he said “I’m two years old” but he did know his name,’ she wrote.
‘He does keep saying “I don’t want to die I’m sorry” and “please don’t let me forget you”. He also keeps flashing back to the assault screaming for “HELP” and “PLEASE GET THEM OFF ME”. He didn’t seem to know what happened to him or why he was in the hospital.’
More than 100 people, including hero Deborah Hughes, gathered at a prayer service for Utash at Historic Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit on Thursday night.
‘No matter how long I’m here I will not have a more special day than the day I go with you and your family to talk with your father,’ Mayor Mike Duggan said, according to MLive.
A Go Fund Me page set up for Utash, who has no health insurance, has already raised more than $181,000.
His family, who are keeping a bedside vigil, said on the site:
‘Everyone has been asking us for an update on our dad’s condition. We are very grateful to all who have been sending cards with kind notes and prayers for him and our family. I have been putting off posting an update hoping that after the ‘next visit’ I would have some better news. But days are going by and I don’t have better news to share. He is still unable to distinguish reality from his delusions …’
State representative Brian Banks said Utash did not deserve to be attacked.
‘Mr Utash did the right thing by stopping to help a child in need and, appallingly, was punished for doing so,’ he said. ‘People should not be punished for doing the right thing.’
Outside court, Utash’s brother-in-law Max Mohr said Utash is struggling and disoriented in the hospital. He said Utash tried to walk with the help of nurses but lasted only a few steps.
‘He’s not the Steve I know — not even close,’ Mohr said.
[Editor’s Note: Detroit News reports that “A group whose members described themselves as relatives of the defendants laughed when Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey read aloud Saffold’s description of how the mob kicked and punched Utash.”]