June 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

3 accused in Utash beating plead guilty to assault charges

Latrez Cummings on Thursday admitted to hitting Steven Utash on April 2. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Detroit — The three remaining suspects charged in connection with the beating of suburban motorist Steven Utash took plea deals Thursday in a Wayne County Circuit courtroom.

Latrez Cummings, 19, James Davis, 24, and Wonzey Saffold, 30, all agreed to plead guilty to assault with attempt to do great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year felony, in the mob beating of Utash, a 54-year-old Clinton Township resident and landscaper.

Cummings, who admitted to hitting Utash, and Davis, who said he kicked the Clinton Township man, will be sentenced July 10. Saffold, who admitted to kicking Utash twice, will be sentenced July 7.

Saffold’s attorney, Ray Paige, said his client has agreed to what is expected to be a six-year prison term in the beating. Saffold and each of the other men could have received 25 years on attempted murder charges.

Utash was attacked on the city’s east side on April 2 when he stopped to help a 10-year-old boy he struck after the child reportedly darted out in front of his truck as he drove along Morang and McKinney.

The attack, believed to be a hate crime by many, drew national headlines. Utash’s attackers are African-American. Utash is white.

Paige said the attack was not racially motivated, saying “if (Utash) had been a black man, they would have done the same thing.”

Saffold, said Paige, is sorry for hitting and kicking Utash.

“He had a certain swagger in the courtroom but he’s remorseful,” Paige said. “He regrets it.”

The defendants were to appear for a final conference hearing Thursday before Wayne County Circuit Court James Callahan when they announced their pleas, meaning all five who were charged in the case will not go to trial. Earlier this week, two other teens took plea deals in the case.

Paige added the plea deal all five defendants took was probably done out of consideration for Utash having to testify in the case and not due to the fact that two teens who also took part in the brutal beating of Utash agreed to testify against the remaining three defendants as part of their plea deals.

“They probably wanted to spare Mr. Utash from coming with the challenge of reliving the ordeal,” Paige said.

One of the teens, 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 his plea deal, the teen will have to pay Utash an undetermined amount of restitution and do 50 hours of community service.

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

bwilliams@detnews.com
(313) 222-2027

James Davis appears with his attorney, Jason Malkowicz, on Thursday before ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Wonzey Saffold stands by his attorney, Ray Paige, on Thursday as a plea ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Utash