Jurors heard conflicting accounts of the 2009 burning attack on a Florida teen in the second day of the alleged ringleader's trial.
Defense attorney Perry Thurston Jr. said that Matthew Bent did not intend for middle-school classmate Michael Brewer, then 15, to be set on fire when he was part of a group that confronted him on his way home from school. But prosecutors said Bent, charged with attempted second-degree murder, orchestrated the violence in cold blood: revenge against Brewer's family for having told police Bent had tried to steal their bike the day before.
En route home from Deerfield Beach Middle School, Bent and two other teens, all 15 at the time, confronted Brewer near an apartment complex after they chanced upon a container of rubbing alcohol.
Denver Jarvis, who faces eight years in prison for pouring the alcohol on Brewer, testified today in a Broward County courtroom that Bent offered him $5 or $10 to "throw that on Michael," according to the Associated Press.
Also scheduled to testify today was Jesus Mendez, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for flicking a lighter, igniting a blaze that covered 65 percent of Brewer's body with second- and third-degree burns. But Mendez was not allowed to testify because his lawyer was absent from the courtroom.
Brewer survived the attack by jumping into the apartment complex swimming pool, and in the years since has undergone extensive skin graft surgery and physical therapy.
Mendez's younger brother Joell, 16, testified that Bent had offered the money to anyone in the neighborhood who would fight Brewer. That was confirmed by earlier testimony by other boys present at the incident, including Tyler Hand, 14, who said he heard Bent make the offer and saw Brewer jump into the pool, the Associated Press reported.
Brewer's mother, Valerie, testified Tuesday morning that the incident continues to haunt the family. "The night terrors that we still live through on a weekly basis – he wakes up screaming in the middle of the night that he's still on fire," she said.
Prosecutors sought to portray Bent as the mastermind of the attack, but Bent repeatedly denied involvement in an interview with police played in court today.
"I had nothing to do with this," Bent said in the interview.
Bent's trial, which has captured the gaze of national media and sparked an outpouring of support for Brewer's family, is expected to take two weeks.