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More guilty pleas in Detroit mob attack on driver

June 19, 2014
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — Three men pleaded guilty Thursday to assault in a mob attack on a motorist who accidentally struck a boy with his pickup truck in Detroit, capping a week of plea deals involving all five defendants in a case that raised questions about race and impulsive violence.

Prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges as part of the deals entered in Wayne County court. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, although the sentences likely will be much lower.

Steve Utash, a 54-year-old tree trimmer from Macomb County, was severely beaten after he quickly got out of his pickup to check on the 10-year-old boy who had darted in front of his vehicle on April 2.

Utash, who is white, spent several days in a coma and six weeks in hospitals before being released in May. His attackers are black. One of them, a 17-year-old, was charged with ethnic intimidation as part of the attack, although that count was dropped.

Latrez Cummings, 19, James Davis, 24, and Wonzey Saffold, 30, told a judge Thursday that they intended to hurt Utash.

"I punched him twice and kicked him once," Saffold said.

Neither Utash nor any of his family members attended the court hearing, but Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said the family was consulted about the plea deals. She called them a "just resolution."

"Now that all of the defendants have pleaded guilty, there will be no trial and hopefully this will allow Mr. Utash to continue to focus on his recovery," Miller said.

Utash's daughter, Mandi Emerick, didn't immediately respond to an email and voicemail seeking comment.

Saffold's attorney, Ray Paige, said the assault charge seemed to fit the facts.

"There was never an intent to murder. ... Bad judgment on all the parts of the defendants was exercised," he said outside court.

"A kid was hit by a car and the community was outraged — wrongfully — by this ordeal," Paige said.

Two others pleaded guilty to assault Monday and Wednesday. The boy who was struck by Utash's pickup wasn't seriously injured.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

 
 

 

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