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."
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, 54, of Macomb County's Clinton Township, is a tree trimmer who was familiar with the east side Detroitneighborhood 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.
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.