June 16, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Man charged in Utash beating takes plea deal, agrees to testify

Man tells his role in Utash beating
Man tells his role in Utash beating: Bruce Wimbush Jr. accepted a plea deal Monday and agreed to work with Wayne County prosecutors.

Detroit — One of the four men accused in the brutal beating of Clinton Township motorist Steven Utash in April pleaded guilty Monday for his role in the attack and agreed to testify against the other defendants.

Bruce Wimbush Jr., 18, appeared Monday morning before Wayne County Circuit Judge James Callahan and pleaded guilty to assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year felony.

In a deal cut with the Wayne County prosecutor,Wimbush will be eligible for the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows him to be sentenced under a probation program for offenders age 17 to 20 and avoid a criminal record if he successfully completes the program. The deal is contingent on his testimony at the trials of the other defendants.

Wimbush told the judge he was walking from school in the area of Morang and McKinney on April 2 when a 10-year-old boy was hit by Utash’s vehicle, causing a large, angry crowd to form.

Wimbush, a student at East English Village Preparatory Academy, said he punched Utash once in the jaw after another man punched him twice.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey said Monday that Utash was already “stunned and dazed” before Wimbush attacked.

“I hit him,” Wimbush told the judge. “With my hand ... I striked him once.”

Callahan then asked him why he attacked Utash.

“Because I have a little brother, sir,” Wimbush responded.

“When I saw the kid, all I could see is my little brother and I got emotional. And I let my anger take over.”

Callahan agreed to release Wimbush on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond with the condition that he wears a GPS tether. He must also comply with a 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

He will be allowed to attend summer school and resume working at a boatyard, where his aunt is employed.

He is scheduled to be sentenced July 7.

The judge told Wimbush he expected him to report any threats made against him to prosecutors.

“Your honor, it is my understanding that there have been threats made already,” said Lindsey, noting he received a threat in the Wayne County Jail before he agreed to cooperate.

“The people, wherever they are threatening you, I hope that the prosecuting attorney’s office sees fit to bring appropriate charges against them,” Callahan said.

The final conference hearing for James Davis, 24, Wonzey Saffold, 30, and Latrez Cummings, 19, was postponed until Thursday morning.

All are charged in the attack on Utash, 54. Utash, who stopped to aid the 10-year-old child he accidentally hit with his pickup on April 2, was beaten by a mob of about 12 people.

The boy suffered minor injuries in the accident.

Utash, meanwhile, spent weeks hospitalized with severe injuries. He has since been released and is recovering at home, according to his family.

The men were charged with assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder.

The defendants had non-guilty pleas entered on their behalf in the case.

Trial dates have been scheduled for late August for the other men.

Another teen, who has been charged as a juvenile, is expected to appear Wednesday for a pretrial conference before Judge Jerome Cavanagh in the Lincoln Hall of Justice.

The teen faces charges of ethnic intimidation and assault with intent to do great bodily harm.

Lindsey has estimated the trials would last about four days, and she expects to call 15 witnesses.

tbriscoe@detroitnews.com
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Bruce Wimbush Jr., 18, appeared Monday morning before Wayne County Circuit Judge James Callahan and pleaded guilty to assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year felony. / David Coates / The Detroit News