Man who punc­tured fire hose gets pro­ba­tion

Three years of fed­eral su­per­vi­sion for But­ler

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Justin Fen­ton jfen­ton@balt­sun.com

A 22-year-old Baltimore man who donned a gas mask dur­ing the April 2015 riot and punc­tured a fire hose as fire­fight­ers worked to ex­tin­guish a burn­ing phar­macy was spared prison time by a fed­eral judge Thurs­day.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge J. Fred­er­ick Motz sen­tenced Gregory Lee But­ler Jr. to three years of su­per­vised re­lease and or­dered him to serve 250 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice. The gov­ern­ment had sought 33 months in prison.

Robert Maloney, Baltimore’s di­rec­tor of emer­gency man­age­ment, spoke on But­ler’s be­half at the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing. He de­clined to com­ment after the hear­ing.

A deputy fire chief whom the gov­ern­ment had listed as a po­ten­tial wit­ness was also called by the de­fense.

“I think Greg got a se­cond chance to show the city of Baltimore that he’s re­ally sorry for what he did on that day, ... and we are ex­tremely grate­ful that so many peo­ple in the Baltimore City Fire Depart­ment and the judge and a lot of peo­ple have de­cided that Greg is a young man who de­serves a se­cond chance,” said Liz Oyer, a fed­eral pub­lic de­fender who rep­re­sented But­ler.

“He’s go­ing to do ev­ery­thing he can to make amends for the mis­take that he made.”

Motz also or­dered But­ler to pay $1 mil­lion in resti­tu­tion re­lated to dam­age caused to the CVS Phar­macy that burned down at Penn­syl­va­nia and North av­enues, which fire­fight­ers were try­ing to ex­tin­guish at the time the hose was cut.

Ear­lier this year But­ler, pleaded guilty to the fed­eral crime of ob­struct­ing fire­fight­ers dur­ing a civil dis­or­der. A charge of aid­ing and abet­ting an ar­son was dis­missed.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said in court pa­pers that But­ler’s “con­duct con­sciously or reck­lessly cre­ated a risk of death or se­ri­ous bod­ily harm to oth­ers.” They said But­ler, who had been rid­ing around on a bi­cy­cle with a gas mask in front of a line of po­lice of­fi­cers, first stood on the hose, then used a ser­rated knife to twice punc­ture it.

“In essence, he wanted the CVS Phar­macy to con­tinue to burn,” they wrote.

A re­port from the Fire Depart­ment at the time said that “all units on the fire ground were placed in dan­ger by the de­struc­tion of the sup­ply line.”

Rick Hoff­man, pres­i­dent of the Baltimore fire­fight­ers union, was not in­volved in But­ler’s sen­tenc­ing but said he thought it was good for But­ler to get a se­cond chance.

The riot was “an ab­so­lutely hor­ri­ble time for ev­ery­body, in uni­form and out,” Hoff­man said.

“Now mov­ing for­ward, if every­one’s de­cided that the best way to han­dle this is to try to make some­thing pos­i­tive out of this kid, I’m all for it.”

But­ler, who spent five weeks in fed­eral de­ten­tion be­fore sen­tenc­ing, is the first per­son charged in fed­eral court re­lated to the riot who did not re­ceive ad­di­tional prison time. Oth­ers con­victed faced be­tween four and 15 years in prison for their roles.

Be­fore the riot, But­ler was a stand­out bas­ket­ball star at Polytech­nic In­sti­tute. His coach told The Baltimore Sun in 2014 that But­ler couldn’t se­cure an NCAA schol­ar­ship be­cause of a city pol­icy that had been caus­ing stu­dents to earn fewer points to­ward their weighted grade-point av­er­age for hon­ors and Ad­vanced Place­ment classes than their peers in other school districts.

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