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Published: Saturday, 8/31/2002

Erie County official gets 12 days for DUI

SANDUSKY - Erie County Commissioner Harold Butcher has been sentenced to 12 days in jail after pleading no contest to charges stemming from two drunken-driving arrests last year.

Mr. Butcher, 69, was convicted Thursday of two counts of driving under the influence and one count of driving under suspension in Sandusky Municipal Court. A fourth charge, failure to control, was dropped.

The DUI arrests occurred Nov. 11 and 12. The night of the first arrest, Mr. Butcher also was charged with offering to pay two Sandusky girls, ages 14 and 16, for sex.

Tygh Tone, a Sandusky city prosecutor, said Mr. Butcher was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of six days in jail per count for “high tier” DUIs with blood-alcohol levels above 0.17. Mr. Butcher's blood-alcohol level was 0.178 after his first arrest and 0.261 after his second arrest. Ohio's legal limit is 0.1.

“I just tried to treat him like anyone else,” Mr. Tone said yesterday.

The prosecutor said Mr. Butcher has the option of serving three days of his jail time in an alcohol intervention program.

He pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to a reduced charge of menacing by stalking after a felony charge of compelling prostitution was dismissed. Mr. Butcher avoided a trial and jail time in that case, instead being sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and a $1,000 fine.

Mr. Butcher, a commissioner since 1994, is not running for re-election this fall but is expected to finish his term.

That prospect has angered the Sandusky chapter of the NAACP, which charges that the commissioner was treated leniently because of his status in the community. The NAACP wants state authorities to investigate the decision to conclude the sex case with a plea agreement instead of going to trial.

“We don't feel that Mr. Butcher got the punishment he should have gotten,” said Barbara Clark, the group's president. “I just don't think that justice was done.”

Ms. Clark noted that Mr. Butcher was in a mostly black area of Sandusky when he was arrested Nov. 11.

“Mr. Butcher went out of a well-to-do neighborhood, his neighborhood, into basically an African-American neighborhood to solicit, Number 1,” she said. “And Number 2, I think it doesn't matter, whether it was an African-American child or not. When it comes to our children, we should serve to protect our children, all of them.”

Ms. Clark said the NAACP's legal counsel in Washington is reviewing grievances the group plans to file with the Ohio Ethics Commission and the disciplinary counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court.

“I think the courts need to take another look,” she said.

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