Man who stole for crack gets 6 years suspended Sister says judge was swayed by God

September 03, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

It was crack, Guy Butler said, that made him steal three handguns and other items from an Annapolis home last year.

It was crack, he said, that made him smash a window of a Lothian home last July in an attempt to break in.

But it was God, his sister said, that convinced a Circuit Court judge yesterday to set him free.

"Thank God," exclaimed a relieved Dawn Gwinn, Butler's sister, when Judge Warren B. Duckett, Jr. agreed to suspend Butler's six-year prison sentence so he may enter a drug treatment program.

"He's going to be a different person from now on. I know it. It's Jesus that did this," she added later.

Judge Duckett made Butler's release contingent on his completion of a yearlong drug treatment program. The decision came after an hourlong hearing on a request to reduce Butler's sentence.

Keith Gross, assistant public defender, said he hopes Butler will be released soon, but that Florida officials must first waive, or cancel, detainers they placed on him for violating parole for minor offenses there. Judge Duckett's decision yesterday should clear the way for that waiver, he said.

He said Butler's family support, their religious convictions, and their efforts to get him into a drug rehabilitation program all worked in his favor. The family is active in the Annapolis Church of God, he said.

"He's really lucky that he has that family behind him," Mr. Gross said.

That support was evident in the courtroom yesterday, as Butler's parents, his sister and his wife sat tensely waiting for the judge's decision.

"It's his addiction that's made him do the things he's done," said his wife, Joyce Butler, 33, as she held her 15-month old daughter in her arms. "Once he gets the drugs out of his system, he'll be fine."

Butler was sentenced to six years in prison May 21 for stealing three rings, a VCR, a 35-millimeter camera and three handguns from an acquaintance's house in the 400 block of Edgemere Dr. in Annapolis.

He also faced 18 months in prison on a burglary charge stemming from an incident July 25, 1991, when he smashed a window in a house in Lothian and fled when the home owner arrived.

The judge agreed to consolidate both cases and suspend the sentences as long as Butler completes Teen Challenge, a

year-long, drug and alcohol residency program affiliated with the Assemblies of God Church.

Participants pay a $150 deposit and undergo counseling and vocational training, get education and learn good work habits, said Robert Chastain, an administrative assistant at the program's Capitol Heights office.

Despite the name of the program, there is no age limit on participants, he said.

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