(DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.) — Jurors began deliberating Monday in the trial of a Florida teen accused of planning the torching of his middle-school classmate after the prosecution urged them not to let him “get away with letting other people do his dirty work for him.”
In her closing argument, prosecutor Maria Schneider told jurors Monday that Matthew Bent, 17, on trial for second-degree attempted murder, was trying to avoid responsibility when he offered money for the 2009 attack in which Michael Brewer was soaked with rubbing alcohol and then set on fire.
“Matthew Bent was the reason why this crime happened,” Schneider said. “He was offering people money to beat Michael, not to scare Michael.”
Bent faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
On Oct. 12, 2009, Bent and two other teens confronted Brewer, who was 15 at the time, near an apartment complex after their middle school let out in Deerfield Beach, Fla. One boy doused Brewer with rubbing alcohol and another flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.
Brewer survived the attack by jumping into a nearby pool, but not before second- and third-degree burns covered nearly two-thirds of his body.
Schneider stressed to the six-person jury the disputes between Bent and Brewer prior to the attack.
Brewer testified Thursday that Bent targeted him because he refused to buy drug paraphernalia from Bent. And the day before the attack, Brewer’s parents reported Bent to the police for allegedly attempting to steal a family bicycle. Brewer said he stayed home from school on Oct. 12, fearing possible retaliation by Bent.
The bad blood between Brewer and Bent reveal revenge as a clear motive for Bent to plan the attack on Brewer, Schneider argued.
Denver Jarvis, 17, is serving eight years in prison and Jesus Mendez, 18, was sentenced to 11 years for their roles in the attack. Jarvis poured the rubbing alcohol on Brewer and Mendez flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.
Bent’s attorneys rested their case Monday morning after informing the court that Bent would not testify in his own defense and without calling a single witness.
Defense attorney Perry Thurston called the allegation of Bent’s offer a fabrication on Friday. The attack happened spontaneously after the boys chanced upon a jug of rubbing alcohol on the street, he said.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Johnny McCray said Bent “will have scars for the rest of his life” because of the trial, and argued that convicting an “innocent child” would not bring justice for Brewer.
“This is prosecution overkill,” Thurston said.
Brewer has undergone extensive skin graft surgery and physical therapy since he was attacked. His mother Valerie Brewer testified that her son still requires therapy in order to keep his muscles flexible enough for routine functions.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
Sam Turner, Deseret News