FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – The sentencing of Matthew Bent, the alleged ringleader in the fiery attack on Michael Brewer, has had his sentencing delayed.
A new judge took over the case on Tuesday. Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry set a status hearing for August 17th. Bent’s sentencing will likely be delayed for many more weeks. Bent is seeking a new trial.
The 17-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison for an aggravated battery conviction in the 2009 attack on Michael Brewer. Brewer was doused with alcohol and set on fire but survived by jumping into a swimming pool.
Two other teens, Denver Jarvis and Jesus Mendez, both pleaded no contest in the attack and were sentenced to 8-years and 11-years in jail respectively.
Broward Circuit Judge Michael Robinson recused himself after Bent’s attorneys claimed he improperly communicated with a juror who claimed misconduct during deliberations.
Karen Bates-McCord complained, after the trial, that she was pressured by racial threats into voting to convict Bent.
She sent a letter to judge Robinson complaining about the possible misconduct.
During a hearing, she also said she didn’t understand the judge’s instructions and would have voted ‘not guilty’ had she known she could go against other jurors. Bates-McCord said she was pressured into coming up with a guilty verdict — even though she thought Bent was innocent.
Bent’s attorneys argued that Judge Robinson did not disclose to the defense that he had received a letter. In addition, the attorneys write in their motion that the juror received a phone call from the judge’s office.
“The juror indicated that the judge spoke with her through the secretary and she felt intimidated the way the conversation ensued,” defense attorney Johnny McCray told CBS4′s Carey Codd.
Specifically, McCray wrote that Robinson asked the juror to come to his office and “meet with him only and that she was not to speak with defense counsel, the State or media.”
Bent’s attorneys want a new trial for their client or an acquittal, claiming that the prosecution did not prove its’ claim that Bent masterminded the attack.
Brewer’s grandmother, Reenie, told CBS 4 News that a new trial would be harmful to her family.
“We certainly don’t want that,” Brewer said. “That’s not something that would be beneficial for my family health wise.”
Brewer also said that the family understands the legal moves by Bent’s lawyers. However, they believe Judge Robinson was fair and clear throughout the trial.
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