DETROIT (AP) — Prosecutors dropped an ethnic intimidation charge Wednesday as part of a guilty plea from a black teenager who threw the first punches in a mob attack that critically injured a white motorist in Detroit.
It was the second guilty plea among five defendants charged in the beating of Steve Utash, a 54-year-old tree trimmer from the suburbs who was attacked in April after accidentally striking a 10-year-old child with his pickup truck.
The 17-year-old pleaded guilty to assault in Wayne County Juvenile Court. He admitted punching Utash twice in the head, the first in a series of blows that put the victim in a coma for days. Utash was released in May after six weeks in hospitals.
Defense attorney Solomon Radner told the judge that his client was “very remorseful.”
“What happened to Mr. Utash is nothing short of an absolute tragedy,” he said.
The Associated Press doesn’t name minors charged with crimes in juvenile court. The teen in the Utash case was 16 at the time of the incident.
Outside of court, Radner said his client assaulted Utash after seeing a boy bleeding and crying in the street.
“It was the wrong thing to do,” Radner said.
The teen’s parents appeared in court but declined to speak to reporters. They released a statement through Radner saying they regretted their son’s role and were praying for Utash’s recovery.
“We are not racist. We resented the fact that they initially charged our son with a hate crime,” they said. “We have never taught racism in our home, and it is something we would not tolerate, ever.”
Radner said the teen quickly cooperated with police but never indicated that he punched Utash because he’s white.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, Maria Miller, said there was evidence to support the charge before it was dropped as part of the plea deal. She didn’t elaborate on the evidence.
Three men are charged with attempted murder, but not ethnic intimidation. They are due in court Thursday. Another defendant, 18-year-old Bruce Wimbush, pleaded guilty to assault Monday.
The teen will remain in a juvenile facility at least until his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Sept. 17.
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