(CBS/AP) FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Trial was set to begin Tuesday in the 2009 attack on Florida teenager Michael Brewer, who was doused with alcohol and set ablaze by his own middle school classmates in a dispute over a $40 video game.
Matthew "Zeke" Bent is accused of orchestrating the attack on then-15-year-old Brewer. Bent, now 17, faces a maximum 30-year prison sentence if convicted of attempted second-degree murder.
Brewer, also now 17, is on the state's witness list, as are two other youths who previously pleaded no contest for their roles in the attack. Denver Colorado "D.C." Jarvis, 17, admitted pouring the rubbing alcohol on Brewer and 18-year-old Jesus "Junior" Mendez acknowledged flicking the lighter that ignited the fluid and burned Brewer over 65 percent of his body. Mendez was sentenced to 11 years in prison, Jarvis to eight.
Brewer survived after jumping into an apartment complex swimming pool but suffered second- and third-degree burns. He spent months in the hospital, undergoing painful skin graft surgeries, followed by lengthy physical rehabilitation. He has largely recovered physically, but his mother said Monday much of what happened that horrific day is still fresh in his mind.
"He's scared," Valerie Brewer said. "He's got a lot of mental scars that may never go away."
All the boys involved were students at Deerfield Beach Middle School. According to statements given to police, Bent wanted revenge because Brewer refused to buy a $40 video game. After the rebuff, Bent allegedly tried to steal a bicycle belonging to Brewer's father, leading to his arrest.
A group of boys including Bent confronted Brewer after school in October 2009, after happening by chance upon a jug filled with rubbing alcohol that had been left outside an apartment complex.
"It was because he wanted me to buy something from him that I didn't want to buy," Brewer told police.
Bent's attorneys, Johnny McCray and Perry Thurston Jr., are expected to focus their defense on whether there's adequate proof Bent actually gave orders leading to the attack. Bent had initially planned to plead no contest but decided against it at the last minute, opting instead for trial.