Judge Buys Butler More Time

Former Marshall football player Steward Butler was given 20 extra days on his sentence Monday in the chambers of Judge Paul T. Farrell at the Huntington courthouse. Farrell requested for the prosecution and the defense file briefs to him by March 21 addressing whether Butler violated the civil rights of two men when he witnessed them kissing.

The requested briefs would support or deny the application of the West Virginia Code 61-6-21. The code defines violations of an individual’s civil rights. Butler’s case hinges on the allegation he violated the civil rights of two men when he beat them moments after he witnessed the couple kissing on Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street in Huntington April 5, 2015.

The statutory provision states a person can not threaten or oppress any other person while the said persons are in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of the State of West Virginia or by the Constitution or laws of the United States because of such person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex.

Counsel for Butler and the assistant prosecuting attorney of Cabell County submitted a question to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for justification of the ambiguous term in the statute, “sex.” The question addressed whether sex meant gender or sexual orientation. Because the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia sent the question back without answer to the lower level of the Circuit Court of Cabell County where the case originated, the ambiguity of the word “sex” is to be interpreted by the judge.

In this case, Farrell will decide from the briefs submitted by both counsels how the statute should be interpreted and whether Butler’s physical altercation against the two males violated their civil rights to be protected from such harm based on their sexual orientation.

Butler will return to court March 21 for Farrell’s decision. If Butler is found to violate the statute, he could face up to a $5,000 fine up to 10 years in prison or both.

Elayna Conard can be contacted at [email protected].