DETROIT – A judge on Monday sentenced one man to prison and a second to probation for their involvement in a brutal mob attack on a Detroit motorist who accidentally struck a boy with his pickup truck.
Wonzey Saffold, 30, was sentenced in Wayne County Circuit Court to six years and four months to 10 years in prison for his role in the April 2 beating of 54-year-old Steven Utash.
Judge James Callahan later sentenced Bruce Wimbush, 18, to three years’ probation.
Both pleaded guilty in June to assault in exchange for having attempted murder charges dropped. Three others also pleaded guilty in the attack on the city’s east side and two of those are scheduled for sentencing Thursday.
The male attackers, including two teenagers, surrounded Utash and beat him severely after he got out of his pickup to check on the 10-year-old boy who had darted in front of him.
Utash, a tree trimmer from Macomb County, spent several days in a coma. He has been released from a hospital, but still is recovering from his injuries. The boy was hospitalized and later released.
At the sentencing Monday, Utash’s daughter Mandi was emotional as she read a statement from her father in court, reports CBS Detroit.
“It’s been real scary for me – all I can say is that the people who beat me – tried to kill me,” the statement read, according to the station. “I don’t understand what kind of defense they have, what kind of defense they can use to explain their animal-like behavior? But if you ask the doctors, they say I’m lucky to be alive.”
The attack sparked outrage. Elected city leaders and members of the clergy spoke out, asking the public to identify the attackers and pray for peace.
By April 9, a fifth suspect had been arrested.
Latrez Cummings, 19, and James Davis, 24, also pleaded guilty to assault and will be sentenced Thursday. A 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty to assault.
Callahan told Saffold that the mob’s behavior “caused a tremendous upheaval in this city.”
“People are hesitant. They’re afraid to stop” for fear they’ll suffer the same fate, Callahan said.
Five members of Utash’s family sat in the courtroom Monday. Four asked Callahan to give Saffold the strictest sentence allowed.
“My brother was knocked down and couldn’t defend himself,” Ken Utash read in a statement, frequently turning to face Saffold. “They did an injustice, not just to my brother, but to the people of Detroit.”
Steve Utash’s sister-in-law, Mary Utash, looked Saffold in the eye and said: “You disgust me and you’re a disgrace to America. It was a brutal beating.”
Saffold apologized to the court and Utash’s family.
His court-appointed attorney, Ray Page, said Saffold realized that what he did was wrong.
“The behavior was animalistic,” Page told the court. “He’s sorry. He’s going away to prison.”
Wimbush, who was 17 at the time of the attack, also apologized Monday. Wimbush has acknowledged punching Utash once in the jaw, but said he then stepped away and watched others continue the beating. After his arrest, Wimbush pointed out some of the attackers from surveillance video.
Outside the courtroom, Wimbush’s stepfather, David Cleveland, said they continue to pray for Utash and his family.