The public is shocked by the decision of Detroit Third Judicial Circuit Judge James Callahan who gave Latrez Cummings, 19, just six months for his participation in the savage beating of Steve Utash, 54, who hit a 10-year-old boy with his vehicle and then jumped out to try to aid the boy. Cummings then set upon him and beat him almost to death — leaving him with brain damage. His survival was not expected and doctors had to induce a coma to keep him alive. In a mob attack that came close to murder, Callahan decided a six-month sentence was sufficient for Cummings who is a gang member.
Some 20 people participated in the horrific attack in April. Some then stole his wallet and belongings.
The sentence shocked Wayne County prosecutor Lisa Lindsey who noted that “[t]here is nothing in this report favorable to this young man.” This included not only his gang membership but lying to police after his arrest.
Judge Callahan decided that a sharp lecture was sufficient with the light sentence. Callahan told Cummings “That’s what you have needed in your life is a father” and “somebody to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake.” In a odd logic, it appears that the lack of that beating led Callahan to largely forgive the beating he gave Utash when it came to punishment.
Over the prosecutor’s vehement objections, Callahan simply said “We’ve all been 19 years of age.” That is demonstrably true. However, I do not recall joining a mob to try to beat a helpless man to death and then rob him. I do not even recall an impulse to do so. Callahan insisted that it might be different for females at 19 but he can understand how this can happen to a male teenager like this. The prosecutor tried to point out that Detroit is full of males without fathers but most do not gleefully try to beat an defenseless man to death.
The case has remained a great controversy over the response to the beating. Some have objected that, had this been a white mob beating a black driver, it would have brought immediate action from the Justice Department and calls for a hate crime prosecution. The light sentence given to Cummings will magnify those objections. Regardless of the merits of that objection, I do feel the sentence is shockingly light. Utash will live out his remaining days with brain damage and Cummings could be back on the streets within weeks given the time spent in jail before trial. In addition, the family will not be given justice with regard to the mob that beat him. Prosecutors only charged a handful of the culprits in the attack, though some may have been given deals to testify against the most responsible like Cummings.
Hopefully the judges in Chicago are a bit less relativistic after a man was beaten down this week in front of 200 cheering and taunting teenagers. He was attacked while he looked for his young daughter.