April 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

Two men, teen arraigned in beating of Clinton Township driver

Attorney on the arraignment of Bruce Wimbush Jr.
Attorney on the arraignment of Bruce Wimbush Jr.: Randall Upshaw's client Bruce Wimbush Jr. is one of several accused in the beating of Clinton Township resident Steven Utash

Detroit — Two men and a teen were arraigned Tuesday on felony assault charges in last week’s brutal beating of a Clinton Township tree trimmer who stopped to aid a child he accidentally hit while driving on Detroit’s east side.

One of the suspects has an extensive criminal record, while the 17-year-old who was charged in the case has had several encounters with the juvenile justice system.

Bruce Edward Wimbush Jr. was arraigned via video Tuesday morning on charges of assault to commit murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, after he allegedly took part in the April 2 beating of Steven Utash. Citing the seriousness of the charges against Wimbush, 36th District Judge Millicent Sherman set a $500,000 bond.

The 17-year-old East English Preparatory Academy student is accused of being part of a group, numbering around a dozen, involved in attacking Utash, 54, who accidentally struck a 10-year-old when the boy darted into traffic at Morang and Balfour. Utash, who remains in a medically induced coma, was not at fault, police said.

When Utash exited his truck and attempted to help the boy, who suffered minor injuries, the mob attacked him and savagely beat him.

Retired nurse Deborah Hughes stopped the thrashing and rendered aid to Utash until an ambulance arrived.

Hughes met briefly with Joe Utash, the victim’s son, late Tuesday afternoon.

“He thanked me for what I did for his father and told me I’ll be with him forever,” Hughes said. “He said ‘get ready for me to be a part of your life from now on.’ ”

Earlier Tuesday afternoon two additional men were arraigned via video at 36th District Court. Wozney Saffold, 30, and James Deontae Davis, 24, face the same charges as Wimbush. Assault with intent to commit murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while assault to do great bodily harm is a 10-year felony. Sherman set a cash bond of $500,000 for each man and set April 21 for preliminary examinations to determine whether they will stand trial.

Saffold has a long criminal history going back to 2001, including eight convictions of cocaine possession.

His most recent conviction, in 2010, was for assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer. He completed probation in October, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Wimbush’s attorney, Randall Upshaw, said Tuesday the bond for his teen client was too high, and said he’d never been in trouble with the law. However, juvenile court records show he was deemed incorrigible three times by court authorities, in 2007, 2008 and 2010. The first instance came two days after he turned 11.

Wimbush’s court file, with details of his offenses, was not available.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is also reviewing a warrant request against another teen, who is 16, allegedly involved in the incident. That teen has not been charged and is being held in the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center.

Both teens were arrested Saturday. Prosecutors have up to five days beyond that to determine whether to charge the 16-year-old as an adult.

“The Detroit Police Department is making excellent progress with this case. I will not comment further because this investigation is continuing and widening. If anyone has information that is relevant to the case I urge them to call the Detroit Police Department at (313) 596-2260,” Worthy said.

Police Chief James Craig said investigators are looking into whether the attack — which has garnered national and international attention — was a racially motivated hate crime.

Wozney Safford, 30, right, and James Deontae Davis, 24, suspects in the beating of Steven Utash were arraigned Tuesday afternoon. / Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News
Attorney Randall Upshaw stands in front of a monitor while his client, ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Attorney Randall Upshaw stands in front of a monitor while his client, ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)