Random: Amazing, no mention of hate crime. Where is the outcry from national leaders over this? Where is the call for healing to our nation? Once again, we allow issues to be one sided. We used to live in a land where this story would be turned the other way around – I’m glad that we are moving away from that scenario (notice I didn’t say it would never happen again). If it does, it will be nationally covered as a hate crime. Under this case it’s just 4 hoodlums against a driver of a truck. Criminal but not a hate crime. This could have been me in my truck driving through the ghetto. Not hated, just in the wrong neighborhood.
Trial ordered for 4 suspects charged in driver beating
DETROIT — Four Detroit men accused of brutally beating a driver outside a gas station earlier this month are likely to stand trial after a judge found there was sufficient evidence to move the case forward.
Steve Utash, 54, was severely beaten by a mob April 2 after his pickup accidentally struck 10-year-old David Harris on Detroit’s east side.
Four adults — Bruce Wimbush Jr., 17, Wonzey Saffold, 30, James Davis, 24, and Latrez Cummings, 19 — were arraigned earlier this month on charges of assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. A 16-year-old was charged in Juvenile Court with assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation. The boy is black; Utash is white.
One witness at the Monday hearing was jailed on $500,000 bond after trying to avoid testifying. Anton Sykes, 30, denied a statement prosecutors said he previously gave to police, raising tensions and incurring frustration from 36th District Court Judge Thomas Jackson.
Jackson said Sykes was “defiant” and likely to disappear if released from the courtroom at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Two other witnesses said they were at the scene April 2, when they saw as many as a dozen people kick Utash. Utash had stopped to check on the boy he hit with his truck after the child darted out into the street.
Saffold, Davis and Cummings each previously told investigators that they’d at least kicked Utash a couple times, according to their statements read in court Monday. They were handcuffed to each other for the preliminary hearing, where prosecutors presented evidence to move the case toward trial in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Wimbush declined his right to the hearing, and his case was bound over as well.
Utash’s family members sat in the gallery through the hearing and at times appeared to be weeping as witnesses described what they saw.
Jason Malcowicz, representing Davis, said he felt his client was “overcharged,” and that kicking a person doesn’t necessarily mean assault with intent to murder. But Jackson moved the case forward anyway, saying it met the requirements for probable cause.
“There was in fact intent to kill that man due to the nature of the beating, the number of attackers and his relative helplessness,” said prosecutor Lisa Lindsey.
The witnesses described Utash getting out of his truck to help the boy. A man in a tan hoodie hit him in the face, knocking off his hat, said witness Ashley Daniels, who said she handed Utash back his hat and told him he should go back to his truck.
She said Utash was hit multiple times in the face. Soon a group of 15 to 20 people had him on the ground, kicking him, she said.
Lindsey asked to have it put on the record that Utash remains in the intensive care unit at a local hospital.
Utash was in a medically induced coma for more than a week before waking up. According to his family, doctors said he could have a long recovery after sustaining severe head injuries.
Contributing: Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press