DNA Links 2 Ashford House Defendants to Scene, But Plea Deal Still Possible
Attorneys for 5 Indiana men accused in the Ashford House attack this summer could make a plea deal, depending on the judge's sentencing recommendation. Prosecutors submitted report that shows defendants' DNA on gloves and a baton found at the scene.
Five Indiana men accused of battery and mob action for their involvement in the Ashford House attack case, are one step closer to a plea agreement after a hearing Friday, Nov. 16.
John Tucker, 26; Cody Sutherlin, 23; Dylan Sutherlin, 20; Alex Stuck, 22; and Jason Sutherlin, 33, have been in custody since May. They are charged with mob action, armed violence, aggravated battery and criminal damage to property.
Police say the five men, three of whom are brothers, stormed the Ashford House in Tinley Park on May 19, their faces covered, and began pummeling a group of diners and some random patrons using extendable batons, table legs, nunchucks and bats. Authorities have said those targeted were affiliated with white supremacist movements, and defendants are said to be members of the Anti-Racist Action (ARA), a network of militant left-wing groups.
At Friday's hearing, Cook County Judge Carmen Aguilar received letters and other documents she had requested in a pre-sentencing investigation to help her determine a recommendation for sentencing if the men decide to enter a guilty plea.
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Prosecutors also submitted a verbal DNA report that showed a heavy amount of Tucker's DNA found on gloves outside the restaurant and a small amount of DNA from Jason Sutherlin found on a baton recovered at the scene. That baton also had DNA from one of the victims on it, according to the assistant state's attorney.
The state had offered a deal for the men but defense attorneys for the five said the offer of the maximum penalty of seven years in prison was unacceptable, especially considering that most of the defendants do not have criminal backgrounds.
Stuart Smith, who is Tucker's attorney, said he still believes the offer from prosecutors actually came from officials higher up.
"They wanted to maximum sentence for everybody," Smith said. "It's ridiculous. … They're getting that order from somebody."
Smith hopes the judge will be more lenient after she has had a chance to review the information submitted Friday, he said. Smith also noted that Tucker is hypoglycemic and has trouble getting access to nutritious food in jail as often as his condition demands it.
However, other prisoners, if not outright sympathetic to Tucker and his co-defendants' plight, seem to certainly be understanding of their motives, Smith added.
"They were trying to fight for equal rights," the lawyer said, referring to the five's reasoning for storming the restaurant. He's not arguing that his client participated in the fray, simply that Tucker, at least, was not in favor of taking weapons to the restaurant. Smith also said much of Tucker's involvement was an attempt to protect the smaller Stuck from being jumped on.
If Aguilar doesn't return with a deal favorable to defense, attorneys are still moving forward with a motion to quash the arrest. Brian Barrido, the attorney for Dylan Sutherlin, will argue the motion.
Barrido, however, is encouraged by Aguilar's willingness to review more information about the men.
"The judge is taking it seriously," he told Patch after Friday's hearing. "She's going in with an open mind. We're hoping that she will come up with a better offer."
The next court date has been set for Dec. 7.
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