The Slatest

Judge OKs Attempted Murder Trial in Beating of Detroit Driver Who’d Stopped After Running Into Child

Defendants Wonzy Saffold, James Davis, Latrez Cummings and Bruce Wimbush Jr.

Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

A Michigan judge found probable cause Monday to try four men for “assault with intent to murder” (which carries a potential life sentence) in the severe beating of a landscaper who stopped his truck after accidentally hitting a child. The child survived the accident with a broken leg. A fifth suspect is charged with “ethnic intimidation” (the victim was white and the accused are all black). The New York Times has an intense story about the case:

As Mr. Utash drove his pickup truck on the city’s East Side, a 10-year-old boy suddenly stepped into the street, the authorities said, and Mr. Utash’s truck hit him. Mr. Utash pulled over to check on the boy, whose leg was broken and whose mouth was bleeding. Soon after, a crowd descended on Mr. Utash, 54, beating and kicking him until he lost consciousness and was left in critical condition.

Utash survived but is unable to speak coherently, his family said. A retired nurse who lived near the scene of the incident helped stop the attack on Utash and provided treatment on the scene to the injured child.

Both the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press accounts of yesterday’s hearing describe it as unusually chaotic—“raucous” is the News’ term. Both note that some supporters of the defendants were heard laughing during proceedings; the News says the laughter occurred during a prosecutor’s description of the beating.

Correction, April 22, 2014: This post originally misstated that four suspects are accused of murder. They are accused of assault with intent to murder. (The victim in the case is still alive.)