‘Not One of Them Cared,’ Steven Utash’s Brother Says at Sentencings

Robert Allen, Detroit Free Press, July 7, 2014

Telling one of the men involved in a beating on Detroit’s east side in April that he caused upheaval throughout the city, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge Monday sentenced the first of four men charged in the attack to 6 to 10 years in prison.

“People are afraid to stop their automobiles when they’re involved in collisions . . . to see if someone’s been injured,” Judge James Callahan said Monday, adding Saffold’s actions had “far-reaching implications.”

Callahan was refering to Wonzey Saffold, 30, who he sentenced in the attack on Steven Utash, a 54-year-old tree trimmer from Clinton Township. Utash was knocked off his feet in the attack and pummeled after he hit a 10-year-old boy who stepped off a curb in front of his truck. Relatives said Steven Utash has brain damage resulting from the beating by up to 20 people.

“You disgust me, and you’re a disgrace to America,” Mary Utash, the sister-in-law of Steven Utash, said to Saffold in Wayne County Circuit Court.

.Saffold faced life in prison as a habitual offender, but was given a lesser sentence as part of a plea agreement.

“He was begging, he was pleading, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ ” said brother Ken Utash. “Not one of them cared about his plea.”

Utash’s daughter Mandi Emerick read a statement from her father. {snip}

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Steven Utash said that when he finally woke up and saw his head, it “looked like a mushroom,” and the brain injuries have made him unable to drive, work “or make financial decisions on my own,” Mandi Emerick read. “I don’t understand what kind of defense they can use to explain their animal-like behavior.”

Saffold apologized, and his lawyer Ray Paige said Saffold’s prison sentence will mean he will miss seeing his pregnant girlfriend give birth.

Another defendant in the case, Bruce Wimbush Jr., 18, who had no prior criminal history, was given three years of probation under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act and must submit to drug screenings, Callahan said.

A 17-year-old boy, charged in juvenile court because he was 16 at the time of the incident, admitted to a similar assault charge.

As part of the plea agreement, a charge of ethnic intimidation was dismissed. Solomon Radner, the teen’s attorney, said the teen will go into a residential placement program. {snip}

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey said Wimbush cooperated with investigators and was remorseful for his role. {snip}

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Lindsey said only three people came forward as witnesses after the beating, and that this limited the strength of their case.

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Family members said that if Deborah Hughes, a former nurse who lives near the site of the beating, hadn’t rushed to help Utash that day, he’d be dead.

All defendants admitted guilt to assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. It carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

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