DETROIT – A young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit-area motorist needed a father to "beat the hell" out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing such a crime, a judge said Thursday.
The stunning remarks by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail.
In response to the judge's question, Cummings, 19, said his father wasn't around when he was growing up.
Callahan said Cummings needed a dad, "someone to discipline you. Someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else."
Cummings and four others have pleaded guilty to assaulting Steve Utash, who was in a coma for days after the April attack. The mob pounced on him in Detroit after he got out of his pickup truck to help a 10-year-old who had stepped in front of his vehicle.
The judge's comments preceded a loud, spirited exchange with assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsay, who said the six-month sentence was too light. She said there are many young black men who were raised without a father but haven't commited crimes. Cummings is black.
"Did I ever use the term 'black'?" replied Callahan, who is white. "It doesn't matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red."
Cummings was the last defendant to be sentenced in the case. The longest sentence was nearly 6 ½ years in prison for a man whose punishment was enhanced because of his criminal record.
The judge was aggressive throughout the hearing. He ordered the well-dressed Cummings to take his hand out of his pocket and accused him of lying a week ago about his school attendance.
Callahan, citing records, said Cummings hadn't attended classes since December.
"Tell me what the heck you did with your time," he said.
Despite the harsh tone, the judge said Cummings' age and childhood were mitigating factors in the light sentence.
"We've all been 19 years of age," Callahan said.