West Virginia Law Says This Man Did Not Commit A Hate Crime

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2016

StewartButtlerIn April, Steward Butler, a Marshall University running back, saw two men kissing in Huntington, West Virginia. He got out of the car, shouted anti-gay slurs, and punched the two men in the face.

Butler, who was expected to be one of the nation’s top running backs, was kicked off the team. A Cabell County grand jury indicted him on two felony counts of violating an individual’s civil rights, and two misdemeanor counts of battery. Cabell County prosecutor Sean Hammers acknowledged that West Virginia’s hate crime law doesn’t cover sexual orientation, but brought the civil rights charges anyway based on sex. Hammers argued that Butler wouldn’t have punched either victim if one of them had been a woman. The misdemeanor charges each allow for up to a year in jail. The civil rights violations carry a ten year prison term. But a judge didn’t buy Hammers’s argument and threw out the hate crime charge:

In a decision this month, Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Paul Farrell said West Virginia civil rights law protects people based on sex, but not sexual orientation, and ruled to drop the hate crime charges against Butler in 60 days, giving prosecutors time to appeal. Many other states specifically mention sexual orientation in listing the categories that elevate violence or threats of violence to a hate crime. West Virginia lawmakers had plenty of chances to follow suit but didn’t, Farrell wrote.

Hammers is appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court. “We now have an incident where two men were battered and their rights were violated,” he said, “and I think that even if we don’t win at the Supreme Court, we definitely put the spotlight on the statute that says, ‘hey, it should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation.'”

HateCrimeMapHate crime laws in fourteen states do not cover sexual orientation. Another six states have no hate crime laws period. One would hope that the federal hate crime law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, could come into play here, but so far that seems unlikely:

The federal law requires that the crime “affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.” So, some connection often has to be drawn across state lines — for instance, in a shooting, if a gun was manufactured in another state.

That’s more difficult when a crime is committed with someone’s fists, as in the West Virginia case..


J'myle Koretz

May 31st, 2016

Indicted for two felonies and two misdemeanors, not to mention losing a career in the NCAA and NFL? How is that not sufficent punishment? How cruel must we be in search of vengeance?

For those unfamiliar with the criminal justice system in America, a two felony rap won’t just put you in jail for years, it will also ban you from voting, exclude you from food stamps, housing assistance, and welfare, and put 99% of jobs in this country out of reach for life.

If Butler is convicted—and he will be—his punishment will certainly be far worse than he deserves.


May 31st, 2016

Here’s a much more disgusting crime, with an unhappy ending. This should probably get its own agenda in the future. What disgraceful behavior from the local Orthodox Jewish community, if true.



June 1st, 2016

J’myle: Please reread the article. The 2 felony charges were the ones based on civil rights violations. The only charges at this time that remain are the misdemeanor charges. So all of your conclusions are wrong.

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