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Man accused of slashing fire hose during riots charged in federal court

A man accused of slashing a fire hose outside the Penn-North CVS that was set on fire during the riots last April faces federal charges that carry up to 25 years in prison.

Gregory Lee Butler Jr., 23, is charged with obstruction of firefighters during a civil disorder and for aiding and abetting arson, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore said Friday.

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"Anyone who considers harming people or property during a riot should know that we can track them down and send them to prison," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "Federal law enforcement agencies are working closely with local police and prosecutors to investigate crimes committed during the Baltimore riots."

Federal prosecutors have charged three other defendants for alleged crimes committed during the riots. Donta Betts, 19, who is accused of burning a police cruiser and Darius Raymond Stewart, 21, who allegedly set fire to a liquor store on West North Avenue, both face federal charges.

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Raymon Carter, 24, is accused of setting fire to the CVS pharmacy at which authorities allege Butler cut a fire hose. Carter was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $500,000.

A Baltimore city prosecutor dropped local charges against Butler related to the fire hose this week, citing the federal charges against him. But Butler remains on trial before Baltimore Circuit Court on charges relating to an alleged attempted theft of cigarettes during the riots, his attorney said.

Attorney J.Wyndal Gordon. Gordon said he expects the case to conclude Monday.

"It's going good. I feel confident," he said.

But he said he feels his client is being made an example of.

"I think it's pathetic," he said, and likened the case to going to trial for having an open container of aclohol.

"I'm just so upset about these cases. People try to make political points over minor offenses," he said.

In the federal case, Butler faces up to five years in prison for obstruction of firefighters during a civil disorder, and a maximum of 20 years in prison for arson. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Monday after his case in Baltimore Circuit Court concludes.

Authorities say Butler stood on top of the hose outside the Penn-North CVS on April 27 and punctured it twice using a sharp object, first near its attachment to the fire hydrant and then on a section of the hose that extended along the ground across Pennsylvania Avenue.

Authorities said the hose was damaged, causing impeding firefighters efforts to extinguish the fire.

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