Marshall University dismissed running back Steward Butler mid-afternoon Wednesday, hours after his arrest in connection with the beating of two homosexual men.
Butler, 23, originally of Florida, stands charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery. He turned himself in Wednesday morning to the Huntington Police Department and declined comment afterwards when questioned by reporters at arraignment.
The charges stem from the April 5 beating of two men, moments after they kissed at 5th Avenue and 9th Street in Huntington.
Athletic director Mike Hamrick announced Butler’s dismissal via Twitter just before 3:30 p.m. He called it the decision of himself and head coach Doc Holliday.
Their announcement followed a strongly-worded statement of the university’s interim president, Gary C. White. He vowed a swift and appropriate response within the institution’s student conduct system and student rights and responsibilities code.
“The entire university community is shocked and disappointed to learn the details surrounding the alleged actions,” White said in the prepared release. “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.”
Cabell County Magistrate Darrell Black released Butler on a $10,000, personal recognizance bond. He appeared and left with local defense attorney Rich Weston.
Criminal complaints claim Butler witnessed the kiss, exited a passing vehicle and proceeded to shout derogatory words toward both men related to their sexual orientation.
Butler then struck the face of both victims with a closed fist, the complaints charge.
“We take all accusations against our student-athletes seriously, especially those of such a sensitive nature,” Hamrick said in an earlier release. “We hold all of our 350+ student-athletes to a high standard, on and off the playing surface, as ambassadors of Marshall University.”
Huntington Police Detective Chris Sperry, who said one of the victims captured the attack on video, called the beating unfortunate. He said the victims, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to live their life without such violence.
Fairness West Virginia executive director Andrew Schneider praised Marshall University’s swift response, while expressing concern the allegations undermine strides already taken by the city and university to promote inclusiveness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“We hope that this reprehensible behavior can ultimately lead to greater education, understanding and acceptance of LGBT people,” he said in a prepared release. “By nature, hate crimes target innocent victims simply because of the color of their skin, their religious views, or in this case, the sex of the person they love.
“Hate-based violence fosters anxiety and mistrust and ultimately brings fear to whole neighborhoods, communities and towns. There is no place for violence or intolerance in any community in West Virginia,” Schneider added.
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SOURCE: The Herald-Dispatch – Curtis Johnson