Matthew Bent, 17, faces a 30-year prison sentence for a crime his attorney says he didn’t commit. Bent attended Deerfield Beach Middle School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where a 2009 dispute over a video game got out of control. One of Bent’s middle school classmates was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire. Bent is among those charged with the crime.
In the opening of the attempted murder trial, attorney Perry Thurston said that Matthew “Zeke” Bent was among the group of boys involved in the 2009 burning, but it was two other young boys who actually committed the crime. Thurston explained that Bent did not have the bottle of alcohol in hand, nor did he light the victim on fire. Michael Brewer, then 15, was covered with second- and third-degree burns, which seared over 65 percent of his body. Brewer survived by leaping into an apartment complex swimming pool.
“Matthew Bent sits in this courtroom innocent of those charges,” Thurston said in an opening statement. Thurston argued that there was not a sophisticated scheme behind the incident and that Brewer was merely a bystander to the crime. But Assistant State Attorney Maria Schneider combated his allegations, stating that Bent offered to pay Denver Colorado Jarvis five dollars to pour rubbing alcohol onto a victimized Matthew Brewer.
“I’m going to ask you hold Matthew Bent responsible for his actions,” Schneider told the jury, demanding that Bent serve time for his alleged crime. Schneider told the court that Matthew Bent had a dispute with Michael Brewer over an unpaid debt, described in court papers as a $40 video game. She explained that after the group of young boys found the bottle of alcohol, Bent proceeded to give Jarvis the cash in order to finish the job.
According to statements given to police, Matthew Bent was seeking revenge. Michael Brewer refused to buy the video game from Bent a day before the attack, and Bent was trying to make brutal amends. Bent allegedly tried to steal a bicycle belonging to Brewer’s father and was arrested. That burglary charge is still pending.
Bent’s alleged partner, Denver Colorado Jarvis, 17, admitted to pouring rubbing alcohol on Michael Brewer. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. Jesus “Junior” Mendez, 18, confessed to flicking his lighter. Mendez was sentenced to 11 years.
During final juror questioning Schneider asked whether the six jurors would have a problem returning a guilty verdict for someone as young as Bent. Most said they wouldn’t have any difficulty convicting Bent of second-degree murder. The trial is expected to last two weeks.