(CHICAGO) - Five Indiana men accused in last month's mob attack at a Tinley Park restaurant appeared in court Tuesday with private attorneys who said they are taking the cases for free in order to fight racism.
The defendants are alleged to have been among an estimated 18 masked attackers who entered the Ashford House restaurant at lunchtime May 19. Dressed in black and wielding batons and hammers, the group targeted a meeting they believed was organized by white supremacists, prosecutors have said.
Charged are three brothers, Jason W. Sutherlin, 33, Cody L. Sutherlin, 23, and Dylan J. Sutherlin, 20. Also arrested were Alex R. Stuck, 22, and John S. Tucker, 26. All five men live near Bloomington and are being held on bail.
Each defendant faces 37 felony counts that include armed violence, aggravated battery, property damage and mob action, records show.
The Anti-Racist Action movement has said a group of anti-fascists was responsible for the attack.
Cook County prosecutors have said the targeted diners claimed to be part of an Illinois European heritage association. The group is affiliated with websites that tout white supremacy, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Members of the group denied they were attending a white supremacist meeting.
After the brief hearing Tuesday in Bridgeview, defense attorneys hinted that Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez could have difficulty selling the case to the public given some of the victims' alleged ties to white supremacy groups.
"I don't know if it's hard or not for Ms. Alvarez to represent white supremacists," said defense attorney Aaron Goldstein, who is representing Jason Sutherlin. "I know I don't represent white supremacists."
The six defense attorneys, who work for five different firms, said they volunteered to represent the men even though none of the defendants can afford legal services.
Defense attorney Stuart Smith said he agreed to represent Tucker because he is sympathetic to the anti-racist movement.
"I'm doing this for free because it's the right thing to do," he said.
Defense attorney Larry Jackowiak, who is representing Stuck, said his firm took the case because it believes in fighting racism.
"It was an easy decision to make," he said.
A prosecutor said authorities intend to seek DNA samples from the men to test an ax-like weapon, a hammer, a wooden chair leg, swabs from stains found on a sidewalk and clothing.
Ten people were treated for injuries after the attack, with at least three needing staples to their heads, police said. In addition to the targets, some customers and employees were injured.
The Ashford House's owner has said he had no idea about the origins of the groups involved. Police said the melee caused about $15,000 in damage to the restaurant.
Tribune reporter Stacy St. Clair contributed.
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