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Jury Convicts Matthew Bent Of Aggravated Battery

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(Source: CBS4) Matthew Bent is handcuffed after being convicted of aggravated assault in the burning of Matthew Brewer

(Source: CBS4) Matthew Bent is handcuffed after being convicted of aggravated assault in the burning of Matthew Brewer

Carey-Codd-600x450 Carey Codd
Carey Codd is a General Assignment Reporter for CBS4 News and jo...
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South Florida Crime

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Seventeen-year-old Matthew Bent has been found guilty of aggravated battery, which was a lesser included offense, for his role in the burning of Michael Brewer in 2009.

Bent had been facing a charge of attempted murder for the burning of Brewer in 2009. He faced a maximum 30 years in prison if convicted of attempted second degree murder

Niether Brewer nor his family was present in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict.

Prosecutor Kal Le Var Evans said it was too difficult for the family to attend.

Brewer’s grandmother, Reenie Brewer, told CBS 4’s Carey Codd over the phone that the family was taking Tuesday night to let the verdict sink in.

“We’re absorbing,” she said. “We’re glad this part of it is over.”

Reenie Brewer said the family has never focused on the punishment of the teens involved in the attack. Rather, she said, they are focused on Michael’s recovery.

She said that Michael spent the day Tuesday playing football with his cousins.

After the verdict was read, a bailiff put handcuffs on Bent.

“He’s disappointed but he understands and we’re going to prepare for the sentencing and hope for the best,” attorney Perry Thurston Jr. said.

Earlier, embers of the jury asked for help in understanding a police  interview involving Bent. The jury heard a tape of the interrogation, but had a hard time understanding it.Jurors had listened to a conversation in the interrogation room of the Pompano Beach Police Department on October 12, 2009, involving Bent and other defendants in the case.Apparently, they had problems understanding everything, and asked the judge for a paper transcript so they could read the comments, “and understand everything that was said,” according to the note.

There was just one problem. Apparently, the conversation between Denver Jarvis, his younger brother, and Matthew Bent was never transcribed; so all the jurors had available was the recording.

After discussing, and rejecting, having a transcript of the recording made, the judge accepted a suggestion from a court officer that the IT department provide a better quality playback machine for the jurors.

They were brought back into the courtroom, told of the sitiuation, and sent back to await the installation of the new machine, with instructions from the judge that they contact him if they had further problems.

Bent’s co-defendants are already serving time. Denver Jarvis received 8 years for dousing Brewer with alcohol. Jesus Mendez received 11 years for flicking the lighter that set Brewer ablaze.

Bent rejected a plea deal earlier this year. Prosecutors said Bent was angry at Brewer for an unpaid debt and offered to pay for the attack.

However Bent maintains his innocence and his lawyers say Bent feels badly for Brewer.

“He’s extremely remorseful,” Thurston said. “He understands what he’s gone through. He’s seen the horrific pictures.”

Michael Brewer still lives with the pain. Prosecutors hope the verdict brings him closure.

“Michael Brewer’s spent the last 3 years healing from his physical wounds,” Evans said. “He can now start moving on with his emotional wounds.”

Bent will be sentenced on July 23. Prosecutor Evans said the state intends to ask for the 15 year maximum. Reenie Brewer said her family agrees with that request.

Earlier Tuesday, members of the jury asked for help in understanding a police interview involving Bent. The jury heard a tape of the interrogation, but had a hard time understanding it. Jurors had listened to a conversation in the interrogation room of the Pompano Beach Police Department on October 12, 2009, involving Bent and other defendants in the case. Apparently, they had problems understanding everything, and asked the judge for a paper transcript so they could read the comments, “and understand everything that was said,” according to the note.

There was just one problem. Apparently, the conversation between Denver Jarvis, his younger brother, and Matthew Bent was never transcribed; so all the jurors had available was the recording.

After discussing, and rejecting, having a transcript of the recording made, the judge accepted a suggestion from a court officer that the IT department provide a better quality playback machine for the jurors.

They were brought back into the courtroom, told of the sitiuation, and sent back to await the installation of the new machine, with instructions from the judge that they contact him if they had further problems.

Tuesday marked the second day of deliberations in the trial.

The jury went home for the day Monday just before 6 p.m. Jurors had asked for all of the police depositions and statements in the case, but the judge said they were not permitted to see them because they were not part of the record.

“I’m not playing with words,” prosecutor Maria Schneider told the jury. ‘He was offering people money to beat Michael, not scare Michael.”

Monday morning, closing arguments were delivered after Bent told the court he would not testify in his own defense. His attorneys then rested their case without calling a single witness.

“Sometimes people are the victim of circumstance, sometimes people are the architect of circumstances. Matthew Bent is the architect of the circumstances that lead up to that tragic event,” said Schneider during her closing argument Monday.

“Who is going to even contemplate that another human being is going to pull out a lighter and set somebody afire?” defense attorney Johnny McCray said to the jury.

Prosecutors said Bent offered Denver Jarvis money to pour rubbing alcohol on Brewer in the October 2009 attack. A boy, Jesus Mendez, set him ablaze with a lighter. Jarvis and Mendez pleaded no contest and are serving prison time.

Both Jarvis and Mendez testified at the trial. So did Brewer who recalled what he could on the stand about the day he was doused with rubbing alcohol and set ablaze.

“I remember looking down and I could see skin hanging from my arms,” said Brewer last week. When the prosecutor asked him how he felt at that point, he replied, “I felt like I was going to die.”

There was bad blood between Bent and Brewer after Brewer said he refused to pay $40 that Bent wanted for a pot smoking pipe.

Bent’s defense claims Brewer lied about the pipe, and originally said he owed money for a video game. Bent’s attorneys also claim that there was no testimony alleging Bent ever gave an order to hurt Brewer.

“I empathize and I sympathize with Michael Brewer,” McCray said in his closing argument. “But because Michael Brewer, ladies and gentlemen, suffered traumatic injuries, doesn’t give him the license to come in here and be untruthful. It doesn’t give him the license to lie to you.”

Bent decided not to take the stand, believing the state did not prove its case.

Prosecutor Maria Schneider closed by noting a charge of second-degree attempted murder does not require her to prove Bent had a premeditated plan to kill Brewer, only that Bent placed Brewer’s life in danger through his actions.

“I am asking that now, today, 975 days later asking you to hold this young man responsible for his actions,” Schneider said. “You can’t orchestrate something then wipe your hands and say, ‘Oh they did it! They did it on their own, I had nothing to do with it.’”

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