‘Ashford Five’ sentences range from 3 1/2 to 6 years
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org January 4, 2013 12:44PM
Police investigate the scene at The Ashford House Restaurant, 7959 W. 159th Street, in Tinley Park, where a group of people entered and started assaulting patrons on May 19, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:34AM
Five Indiana men accused of attacking an alleged white supremacist group at a Tinley Park restaurant in May pleaded guilty to armed violence and were sentenced Friday.
The men, already jailed more than seven months, wanted to put the case behind them rather than go through a trial, one of their attorneys said.
Alex Stuck, 23, John Tucker, 26, and brothers Jason Sutherlin, 33, Cody Sutherlin, 24, and Dylan Sutherlin, 20, all faced 37 counts, including armed violence, mob action and aggravated battery, for the May 19 attack at The Ashford House Restaurant, 7959 W. 159th St. Each pleaded guilty to three counts of armed violence, and the other charges were dropped, according to prosecutors.
A ruling was expected Friday on whether evidence obtained during a traffic stop after the incident could be presented at trial. Instead, after the men’s attorneys gathered with Judge Carmen Aguilar at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview, attorney James Fennerty, who represents Cody Sutherlin, said the men decided to accept a plea deal.
“They want to resolve it today. They don’t want this to go on any more,” Fennerty said.
After a recess, the men were given sentences ranging from 3 1/2 to six years.
Jason Sutherlin was sentenced to six years, Cody and Dylan Sutherlin to five years each, and Tucker and Stuck to 3 1/2 years each. They will be eligible for early release after half their time is served, and the 233 days for which they already have been imprisoned will count toward their time.
Fennerty called the sentences “pretty severe” but said the men remain committed to their cause.
“They’ll still be anti-racist and be against Nazis in any form, against people who don’t respect people because of their color or the way they look,” Fennerty said.
The men were stoic as their sentences were announced. About 30 supporters were in the courtroom, and one man among that group wept.
Prosecutors planned to push for the maximum seven-year sentence for all five men if they went to trial, according to one attorney.
The men’s attorneys had filed a motion to suppress evidence — baseball bats and batons — recovered during the traffic stop. Because of the plea deal, that motion was not addressed Friday. Prosecutors have said three of the men also left DNA evidence at the scene.
All five attorneys were confident they could have won a trial, said Brian Barrido, Dylan Sutherlin’s lawyer. The five defendants were reluctant to wait six to 12 months for a trial to start, Barrido said.
“Hey, I’m willing to go to court,” Fennerty said. “The clients make the decision. I don’t make the decision. I could go to court and have fun, but if we lose, I don’t go to jail. They could face more time (if found guilty in a trial). If we went to a trial, the plea offer would be off the table.”
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.
Sara Garber, Stuck’s attorney, said the men have been active fighting racism.
“Obviously, violence is not an answer, but white supremacists are extremely hateful, violent people. Here we are, the state is prosecuting these five kids. Why aren’t they looking after the white supremacists?” Garber said.
She thought the sentences were harsher because some innocent bystanders were injured.
An assistant state’s attorney said in court that 13 other people were involved in the attack.
“We don’t know anything about those 13 other people, or if the state’s attorney’s office is still investigating them. Do I feel like justice was done today? Absolutely not,” Barrido said. “They got the five they wanted and they’ll close this case out. You’ll never hear about it again.”
He expects the Sutherlin brothers to serve time in the same prison.