A young man who was part of a group of African Americans who attacked a white motorist in Detroit was sentenced to six months in jail and got a lecture from the judge that the defendant could have benefited from having a father around to “beat the hell” out of him.
Latrez Cummings, 19, appeared in Wayne County Circuit Court on Thursday, the last of four adult defendants who pleaded guilty to assaulting Steven Utash, a motorist from suburban Detroit who accidentally struck a child on April 2. The incident was seen as another case that raised questions about race.
Cummings said he had lacked a father’s presence while growing up and Judge James Callahan then sentenced him to three years' probation, with the first six months to be served in jail.
“That's what you have needed in your life is a father,” said Callahan, according to the Associated Press from the courtroom. “Someone to discipline you, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.”
According to wire reports, Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey objected to the sentence, saying Cummings had not earned such leniency. She said there are many young black men who were raised without a father but haven't committed crimes.
"Did I ever use the term 'black'?” replied Callahan, who is white. “It doesn't matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red.”
Callahan said he could understand because he had once been 19, why some problems might arise for a young man who did not have a father's guidance.
“That is no excuse, judge, that is setting a low bar,” Lindsey said. “There are plenty of young black males who live in the city of Detroit who are raised by a single mother who do not, I repeat, do not engage in criminal activity.”
Cummings and the others have pleaded guilty to assaulting Utash, who was in a coma for days after the attack. The mob pounced on him after Utash got out of his pickup truck to help a 10-year-old who had stepped in front of his vehicle.
Cummings was the last defendant to be sentenced in the case. The longest sentence was nearly 6 1/2 years in prison for a man whose punishment was increased because of his criminal record.
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