Star football player arrested for beating men for being gay
Reported by Robert Stitt
Stewart Butler was the 2nd highest rusher on the Marshall University football team last year with 798 yards and 7 touchdowns. Now, after being charged with the beating of two gay men on the night of April 5, 2015, he is without a team.
Reportedly, Butler was riding in a red Chevy Cobalt with two friends when he spotted two gay men kissing on a street in Huntington, West Virginia. The car stopped beside them, and Butler apparently started yelling offensive words out the window about their s*xual orientation. The two men allegedly tried to avoid Butler, but he and his two friends got out of the car, ran up to them, and started swinging with closed fists.
The gay men were identified as 20-year-old Casey Williams and 21-year-old Zack Johnson, who said they were in Huntington on a visit from another small West Virginia town. They were walking back to their hotel from a club when they were violently approached by Butler and his two friends.
The Daily Mail quotes Williams as saying, “He was hitting to cause damage. It was one strike with a closed fist. Then he punched me in the head. It was on the face, in the cheek.” Johnson added, “You can imagine, two people against three, so what do you do? [Butler] was running toward us as we were backing away.”
Johnson was able to record some of the incident on video, which has been turned over to investigators. Butler was arrested, arraigned and released on a $10,000 bond after being charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery.
In West Virginia, s*xual orientation is not a protected status, so the battery does not qualify as a hate crime, which would have dramatically changed the potential consequences for Butler if he was found guilty. BuzzFeed notes that the Huntington police chief has, however, contacted the FBI, who are investigating the incident to see if it falls under federal hate crime statutes.
Either way, Marshall University is not waiting to see what the outcome of the investigation is, or whether or not the case gets hate crime status. Initially, the university said that they would handle the matter “internally and appropriately.” Butler was then dismissed from the team on Wednesday, with the school calling his actions “violent, bigoted behavior.”
BuzzFeed reported that Interim Marshall University President Gary G. White commented, “The type of violent, bigoted behavior reported to have been perpetrated by this student is not tolerated at Marshall University. Period. This is an extremely serious matter.”
William said he hopes Butler goes to jail. “Maybe if justice is served for us, maybe the next person will think about reporting a crime happening to them, too.”
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