Ex-Herd player faces 2 felony violations

Published 7:18 pm Saturday, May 30, 2015

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A former Marshall University football player has been accused of two felony civil rights violations stemming from his alleged April assault on a gay couple.

The accusations against 23-year-old Steward Butler were contained in indictments unsealed Friday by a Cabell County grand jury, according to media reports. He was also indicted on two counts of misdemeanor battery.

Butler is accused of striking two men who were returning to their hotel after an evening out in Huntington. The criminal complaint states Butler, who was passing by in a vehicle, saw the two kissing. He shouted slurs at them and then punched both in the face, according to the complaint.

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West Virginia’s civil rights law does not include protection for sexual orientation.

Butler originally claimed he acted in self-defense. It is not clear if he has an attorney.

A running back, he was dismissed from the team and is no longer a student.

Prosecutor Sean “Corky” Hammers said his office charged Butler with a hate crime based on sex instead of sexual orientation, because prosecutors believe Butler wouldn’t have committed the crime if one of the members of the couple had been a woman.

“The case needed some serious consideration because of what he did,” Hammers said.

If convicted of violating the state’s civil rights law, Butler faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on each charge.