DETROIT, April 21 (UPI) -- A judge approved attempted murder charges Monday for four Detroit men who allegedly beat a driver into a coma after he accidentally hit a young boy.
The driver, Steve Utash, 54, a tree trimmer from suburban Clinton Township, remains in intensive care, a prosecutor said at the hearing. Police said he was knocked down and beaten by 10 or 12 men after he struck a 10-year-old boy who ran in front of his truck and stopped.
Two witnesses at Monday's preliminary hearing backed up the police story of what happened. A third, Anton Sykes, was ordered jailed as a material witness after he denied a statement he made to police.
Judge Thomas Jackson described Sykes, 30, as "defiant." The judge at one point told relatives of the defendants to be quiet. Max Mohr, a relative of Utash, told the Detroit News he was upset when he heard what appeared to be quiet chuckling.
Bruce Wimbush Jr., 17, Latrez Cummings, 19, James Davis, 24, and Wonzey Saffold, 30, were ordered held for trial. Wimbush had declined the right to a hearing.
A 16-year-old is being held as a juvenile on a charge of racial intimidation. Investigators say the teenager urged the black group to attack Utash, who is white.
Jason Malcowicz, Davis's lawyer, suggested the attempted murder charge was too severe because the defendants had acknowledged kicking Utash but not trying to kill him. Lisa Lindsey, the prosecutor, disagreed, while the judge said there was enough evidence to justify the most serious charge.
“There was in fact intent to kill that man due to the nature of the beating, the number of attackers and his relative helplessness,” Lindsey said.