‘Ashford 5’ await ruling on evidence in Tinley Park restaurant attack
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org December 17, 2012 1:32PM
Updated: January 19, 2013 6:13AM
Five Indiana men accused of attacking an alleged white supremacist group at a Tinley Park restaurant in May have been offered plea deals but are awaiting a ruling regarding evidence in the case, attorneys said.
A ruling is expected Jan. 4 on whether evidence obtained during a traffic stop after the incident could be presented at the men’s trial.
Alex Stuck, 22, John Tucker, 26, and brothers Jason Sutherlin, 33, Cody Sutherlin, 24, and Dylan Sutherlin, 20, all face 37 counts, including armed violence, mob action and aggravated battery, for the May 19 attack at The Ashford House Restaurant, 7959 W. 159th St.
They have been offered sentences that are less than the maximum seven years in exchange for guilty pleas, attorneys have said. Prosecutors are pushing for the maximum sentence for all five men if they go to trail, according to one attorney.
All five men appeared in court before Judge Carmen Aguilar Monday wearing tan jail-issued coveralls at the Bridgeview courthouse. Their attorneys have filed a motion to suppress evidence — baseball bats and batons — recovered during the traffic stop.
Prosecutors have said three of the men also left DNA evidence at the scene. Defense attorneys said they have not been given any of the DNA results.
Police have called the five “anti-racists,” saying they wielded bats and wore masks when they targeted the alleged white supremacist group, the Illinois European Heritage Association.
Prosecutors say that with the help of about 12 other people, the men smashed dishes and overturned tables, doing about $15,000 worth of damage to the restaurant.
The five have spent seven months in jail, and will spend the holidays behind bars.
“It’s disappointing. They thought they’d have the motion heard before the holidays. But they have their spirits up. They’d rather wait to make sure the motion is heard properly before the judge if it means sitting around one extra month even though it’s during the holidays,” said Brian Barrido, the attorney for Dylan Sutherlin.
The five “are willing to lose the battle to win the war,” he said.
“They’re excited about getting this motion heard and about getting some of the story out about what happened in May,” Barrido said.
“There’s no questions the five have thought this through carefully. We’ve had multiple meetings with our clients. They know there’s a long road ahead of us, but they are excited about proceeding,” Barrido said.
That the plea bargain is still available is “up to the judge,” said Tucker’s attorney, Stuart Smith.
If Aguilar rules against the men on Jan. 4 and allows the evidence from the traffic stop, “they may consider taking a plea,” Barrido said.
“Of course, if we win the motion, chances are the case will be dismissed and we go forth from there. A lot is riding on this motion.”
The five had absolutely no interest in taking the state’s offer of the maximum seven years behind bars.
“If you’re offered the maximum, why would anyone in their right mind take it?” Barrido said.
Attorney James Fennerty, who represents Cody Sutherlin, said the five “feel very strong and are very committed.”
Smith said any statements made by the men during the traffic stop would also be thrown out if the judge grants the motion to suppress the evidence.
The five looked calm and confident Monday during their brief time in court.
“This is about the only time they get to see each other together. They’re in different units over at the jail,” Fennerty said.
Smith added, “some of their supporters are here (in court), and they’re happy to see them.”