Friday, October 17, 2008

Christopher Butts - Sexually Violent Predator


Convicted rapist Christopher Butts is facing a prison sentence of at least 30 years to life after a judge found him guilty Thursday of being a sexually violent predator in connection with a series of University of Akron assaults and other deviant acts.

Butts, 24, of Columbus, was convicted in August by a Summit County jury for assaulting four women during a period from September 2007 to January.

Three of those attacks were in the university area, and one was in the North Hill section. Butts entered the residences by climbing through windows as the women were sleeping, according to trial testimony.

The jury found him guilty of three counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, three counts of kidnapping, two counts of felonious assault, four counts of gross sexual imposition, four counts of aggravated burglary and three counts of aggravated robbery.

In Thursday's hearing before Common Pleas Judge Paul J. Gallagher, prosecutors introduced graphic testimony and evidence from a 24-year-old Akron woman who said she was attacked, repeatedly beaten and raped by Butts in February 2005 at an apartment they had shared for about a year.

On the morning of the attack, the woman said she had decided she was going to end the relationship with Butts because of numerous abusive incidents resulting in calls to police.

''Do or die, I'm getting out,'' the woman said of her decision to finally leave Butts.

But as the woman attempted to use a friend's phone to get someone to pick her up, she said Butts stopped her, dragged her back to the apartment by her hair and began beating her.

''I mean, I was beaten bad — closed fist, broomstick, all of the above,'' she testified.

Butts pleaded guilty to a felony domestic violence charge for that incident and was sentenced to 17 months in prison.

Timothy J. Bartlett, a psychologist from the city's Child Guidance Centers, also testified that he performed a court-ordered evaluation of Butts in April 2001 for a case when he was a juvenile.

Bartlett said Butts admitted being responsible for $1,600 in charges for a large number of sex line phone calls from his mother's home — on a single day.

Butts blamed the calls on a ''long-standing problem'' with alcohol, Bartlett said.

Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Mary Ann Kovach, the agency's chief counsel, told the judge in closing arguments that Butts has shown ''deviant sexual behavior'' since childhood.

When Butts was 16, he was found to be delinquent by reasons of gross sexual imposition for an incident involving a 12-year-old girl who was a family member, Kovach said.

Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, lead counsel during the August trial of Butts, said the purpose of Thursday's hearing was to seek stronger penalties for Butts when he is sentenced by Gallagher.

The formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 1:30 p.m.

Under Ohio sentencing guidelines, a conviction for rape carries a sentence of three to 10 years.

But with the finding that Butts is a sexually violent predator, the judge must impose the maximum term of 10 years to life for each of Butts' three rape convictions. The law also states that those sentences must run consecutively when there are multiple rape convictions, Walsh said.

''The starting point of his sentence, just on the rapes, is 30 to life,'' Walsh said. ''He could get 100 to life.''

The state's sentencing guidelines for a predator conviction are so complex, Walsh said, that calculating potential time for Butts' other convictions from his trial will require additional legal research.

Butts was accompanied in court by his defense lawyer, Troy A. Reeves, but Gallagher overruled all of Reeves' objections to the testimony from Bartlett and the 24-year-old woman.

Butts did not testify. After the hearing, he was led back to the county jail where he will be held until he is sentenced.

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