DETROIT – 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 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.
Assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsey didn't indicate in court why her office decided to close the cases with the lesser charge of assault. But Saffold's attorney, Ray Paige, said that 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.