A Baltimore man who cut a fire hose during rioting in 2015 was again spared prison time after violating his probation.
Gregory Lee Butler Jr. was sentenced in November to three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to obstructing firefighters during a civil disorder. But he failed to comply with some conditions of his release, including passing regular drug tests and paying his $100-a-month restitution, according to the U.S. attorney’s office, which sought a yearlong prison sentence at a hearing Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz chose not to sentence Butler to prison, but instead extended the probation period to three years beginning Tuesday. He also ordered Butler to enter an inpatient drug treatment program after he tested positive for marijuana and PCP during regular drug tests, which were ordered as part of his probation.
Motz also warned that if Butler violated the terms of his probation again, he would sentence him to prison.
Butler, now 23, donned a gas mask and punctured a fire hose as firefighters worked to extinguish a burning CVS pharmacy during rioting in the city’s Penn North neighborhood on April 27, 2015. He was indicted in December 2015.
On Tuesday, he was escorted into the courtroom in handcuffs and wearing maroon scrubs. He spoke softly to the judge, asking for leniency, speaking of his 14-month-old son and a second child on the way.
Butler said he has been working for his uncle’s contracting business but has struggled to make his restitution payments. He admitted to using marijuana and drinking as a way to cope with his problems. He said his mother was a heroin addict and his father is a functioning alcoholic.
“I’m not asking for too much, just a chance to get back in the fight,” he told the judge.
Federal prosecutors said in court papers that Butler's "conduct consciously or recklessly created a risk of death or serious bodily harm to others" during the riots. They said Butler, who had been riding a bicycle wearing 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.
Butler’s public defender, Lucius Turner Outlaw III, said his client is “doing the best he can,” and that Butler was accused of violating only a handful of the 23 conditions of his probation. He argued that his client suffers from addiction to marijuana and needs inpatient treatment.
“Greg, his family, and his supporters are extremely grateful that Judge Motz granted Greg the opportunity and means to address his addictions and get his supervised release back on track,” Outlaw said after the hearing.
Robert Maloney, who retired this year as the director of Baltimore's Office of Emergency Management, spoke on Butler's behalf Tuesday. He said he has worked with Butler to help set him on the right path, including helping him attend a driver’s education program and making sure he complied with his community service with the Fire Department.
Maloney said Butler seemed to have slacked off in recent months but that he does not belong in prison.
“I believe in this young man. I think he has a lot to offer,” Maloney said.