June 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Teen suspect in Utash beating pleads guilty to assault

Steven Utash )

Detroit — The youngest suspect in the beating of suburban motorist Steve Utash pleaded guilty to an assault charge Wednesday and agreed to testify against others charged in the incident.

In exchange for his testimony, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to drop ethnic intimidation charges against the 17-year-old, who allegedly initiated the attack on Utash. The teen, who was 16 at the time of the attack, will have to do time in a residential correctional program. He could be released from that program as early as September when he is due back in court before Wayne County Juvenile Judge Jerome Cavanagh for a report on his progress.

As part of the plea deal, the teen will have to pay Utash a undetermined amount of restitution and do 50 hours of community service.

The boy’s parents refused to comment on his plea deal but did ask their son’s defense attorney Solomon Radner to read a statement from them.

“We are not racist. We resented the fact that they initially charged him with a hate crime,” read the letter. “We have never taught racism in our home.”

The teen’s mother and father added “we continue to pray for Mr. Utash and his family and pray that he makes a full recovery.”

The teen is African American. Utash is white.

Radner said he doesn’t know why the teen was charged with ethnic intimidation because “he never told police he did it out of racism.” The boy threw the first punch hitting Utash in the head twice, said Radner. He added that the boy took off after that and did not get involved with the mob or the resulting melee that left Utash severely injured. He said his client turned himself into police after the attack and that there was no motive for the attack other than the teen “made a bad decision.” said the lawyer.

“(The teen) has had many many sleepless night knowing he had a role in it,” Radner told Cavanagh during Wednesday’s hearing.

He is the second teen to take a plea deal this week in the beating of Utash, a 54-year-old Clinton Township resident and landscaper. Utash was attacked on the city’s east side on April 2 after he stopped to help a 10-year-old boy he struck with his truck after the child reportedly ran out in front of the vehicle on Morang and McKinney.

On Monday, 18-year-old Bruce Wimbush Jr. pleaded guilty to assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year felony.

The final conference for the remaining defendants, James Davis, 24, Wonzey Saffold, 30, and Latrez Cummings is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday before Callahan.

The teen, whose name is not being released because he was charged as a juvenile, is due back in court Sept. 17 for a review hearing in the case.

Detroit News staff writer Tony Briscoe contributed.

Steven Utash )