'Ashford House 5' Plead Not Guilty to 185 Charges
Five men accused of being among a group of about 18 who authorities say attacked diners at the Ashford House in May were arraigned Thursday, when they appeared before three different judges. In July, attorneys will ask a judge to reduce their bail.
After appearing before three different judges in Cook County Court Thursday, five Indiana men each pleaded not guilty to 37 counts related to mob action, armed violence, aggravated battery and criminal damage to property.
Cody Sutherlin, 23; Dylan Sutherlin, 20; Alex Stuck, 22; John Tucker, 26; and Jason Sutherlin, 33; all stood before judges; hands behind their backs and free of handcuffs. They'd all had their faces shaved and hair shorn leaving them looking markedly different from mug shots taken the day of their arrests.
The backs of their tan jumpsuits were each stamped in black with "D.O.C.," standing for "Department of Corrections," as all remained in jail on bails ranging from $175,000 to $250,000.
The men, three of whom are brothers, are accused of being among a group of about 18 who police say stormed a family-owned Tinley Park restaurant on May 19, violently unleashing on a group of diners who reportedly affiliate with white supremacist movements.
Defendants are said to be members of the Anti-Racist Action (ARA), a network of militant left-wing groups which took credit for the incident that included attackers wielding table legs, hammers, batons and nunchucks.
"There's nothing more to be said other than that they pleaded not guilty and we intend to prove that," said defense attorney Aaron Goldstein, who is representing Jason Sutherlin.
The first court appearance Thursday was before Associate Judge John J. Hynes. He addressed five petitions filed by the defendants' private attorneys asking for a substitution of judges. The petitions specified different Cook County judges whom attorneys said they believed should not hear the cases for various reasons they declined to specify.
"Each defendant has the right of one substitution," said defense attorney Brian Barrido, who is representing Dylan Sutherlin. "We were able to name five judges that we felt would not be fair and impartial in this case, under these circumstances."
He noted that all involved defense lawyers are "seasoned," having no less than a decade of experience working within the county.
After a brief appearance before Presiding Judge Raymond L. Jagielski, the petitions were officially granted and the case was passed to Associate Judge Carmen K. Aguilar, who will be handling it going forward.
All five defendants waived readings of the charges during their arraignment and entered "not guilty" pleas. Assistant State's Attorney Debbie Lawler then presented attorneys with a preliminary stack of evidence, which included a DVD, and let them know "more will be coming."
As they did at a June 12 court appearance, prosecutors again asked for permission to collect DNA samples from each of the defendants and test it against some of the evidence police collected from the Ashford House restaurant where the attack occurred. They include gloves and hats, shirts, spring-loaded weapons, pieces of broken wood and stains on the sidewalk.
The process of comparing DNA is also known as "consumption" because samples can only be tested once before being destroyed. Some attorneys argue that consumption violates the Constitutional right of due process. Aguilar didn't grant the state's motion. She wanted to give defense attorneys time to file any formal objections to the process, she said.
Goldstein said they must consider objecting if they intend to represent the five men well.
"(Prosecutors) believe they have evidence that contains DNA," he said. "When you use it all, that prevents us, the defense, from testing DNA ourselves … that could potentially exonerate our clients. … Whether we continue with our objection or not, I don't know."
Following their appearances Thursday, Barrido described the defendants as being "in good spirits."
"They're still unified in terms of their defense and they're all adamantly pleading their innocence," he said, adding that his client, Dylan Sutherlin, is the youngest and smallest in stature of the five. "He's doing just fine. The other inmates are treating him well. They're not concerned for their safety at all."
Defense attorneys will file motions for bond reductions at the Five's next court appearance, which is scheduled for July 11 at 10:30 a.m.
"They cannot make bond and it's not easy being in jail," Goldstein said, citing challenges lawyers have faced meeting with defendants. "They're presumed innocent but they're stuck in jail. It makes things difficult."
A group of about 10 showed in court to support defendants. Some had shaggy hair or facial piercings. One wore a pair of black cut-off shorts with the word "violence" stitched in white to a back pocket. Another dressed in a T-shirt paired with a sport coat.
All shook their heads "no" when asked for their reaction to the day's proceedings.
Peruse our coverage so far on the Ashford House attack.
- 5 'Attackers' Appear Before County Judge, 2 'Targets' Charged Separately
- Police: Charges Approved for 5 Suspects in Tinley Beating
- PatchChat: Concealed Carry, Gun Control and 'Anti-Fascists'
- Police: Mob Attacked Specific Group of People Inside Tinley Park Restaurant
- POLL: Should Lawyers Take Anti-Racists' Cases Pro Bono?