Jury deliberates in trial over teen's burning

By John Turchin, Crime Specialist, jturchin@local10.com
Published On: Jun 18 2012 10:46:21 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 19 2012 11:55:10 AM EDT

A jury is deliberating in the trial of Matthew Bent, who is accused of instigating the attack on Michael Brewer during which the teen was set on fire.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

A jury continued deliberating Tuesday in the trial of Matthew Bent, who is accused of instigating the attack on Michael Brewer during which the teen was set on fire.

The 17-year-old is charged with attempted second-degree murder, accused of orchestrating the attack on Michael Brewer, who prosecutors say was set on fire by a group of classmates. 

Bent told the court Monday morning he would not testify in his own defense. His attorneys then rested their case without calling one witness. 

Bent is accused of ordering the attack on Brewer, then 15. He was doused with a bottle of rubbing alcohol while another teen flicked his lighter and tossed it on Brewer, setting him on fire, police said. He was burned over 65 percent of his body. 

If convicted, Bent faces a maximum 30 years in prison. 

Prosecutors have contended that Bent offered two of his friends, Denver Jarvis  and Jesus Mendez, money to pour rubbing alcohol on Brewer and then set him on fire with the lighter. Jarvis and Mendez each pleaded no contest, Jarvis getting 11 years in prison and Mendez eight years. 

The incident happened after Bent and Brewer got into an argument over a $40 debt Bent said Brewer owed him. When Brewer allegedly refused to pay up, the state says Bent went to Brewer's house and tried to steal his father's bicycle in payment.

During closing arguments Monday, prosecutors said the attack left Brewer with permanent physical and mental scars.

"I'm not playing with words. He was offering people money to beat Michael, not to scare Michael," said prosecutor Maria Schneider.

Schneider insisted Bent lured Brewer to a secluded spot, where the attack happened.

"Clearly, this was senseless. I mean, why? Why? Over what? A $40 debt? Over being angry? Over being called names, no matter how ugly they are? It's senseless," she said.

Bent's defense team said their client did not set up the attack, that he had no idea of what was about to happen.

"Who is going to even contemplate another human being is going to pull out a lighter and set somebody on fire?" said Bent's lawyer, Johnny McCray.

The state claims Brewer was attacked because he did not pay Bent back a $40 debt. But, on the stand this week, Brewer changed his story, saying it was for a bong to smoke marijuana.

"I empathize and I sympathize with Michael Brewer, but because Michael Brewer, ladies and gentlemen, has suffered traumatic injuries doesn't give him a license to be untruthful to you, doesn't give him a license to lie to you, ladies and gentlemen," McCray said.

"I am asking that now today, 975 days later, that you hold this man responsible for his actions. You can't orchestrate something and then wash your hands and say, 'They did it on their own. I had nothing to do with it,'" Schneider said.

Just before 5:30 p.m. Monday, the jury asked the judge for transcripts of all police depositions in the case. The judge denied that request because they were not admitted as evidence.

The jury finished for the day Monday before 6 p.m. Jurors returned at 9 a.m. Tuesday to continue their deliberations.

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