Man Not Guilty of First-Degree Assault on Deputies - Southern Maryland Headline News

Man Not Guilty of First-Degree Assault on Deputies

Jury finds guilt of lesser charges stemming from police chase

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (May 1, 2008)—A jury took more than four hours deliberating the fate of Guy Vivian Butler last week after a two-day trial where the prosecution portrayed him as a man who led police on a dangerous high speed chase last year that culminated in him attempting to ram two deputies in a pursuing police cruiser.

But the jury did not agree with Assistant State’s Attorney Robyn Riddle’s argument and instead found Butler guilty of three lesser counts of second-degree assault on pursuing deputies as well as on charges of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and theft.

Testimony from several St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s deputies and one state trooper recalled the high-speed chase that took place last Oct. 26, a day marked with heavy rain.

Butler, 42, of Mechanicsville, was suspected of driving a stolen Ford Windstar van that day when then Detective Antonio Malaspina, a state trooper, spotted Butler at the Target department store in California in the vehicle.

Malaspina testified that he followed Butler in the stolen vehicle down Route 235 and then down onto Chancellor’s Run Road where deputies had set up a staging area to attempt to catch Butler.

When Butler approached the deputies set up in front of Fox Chase Apartments, he attempted to flee.

“The van simply accelerated and sped between two sheriff’s deputies,” Malaspina testified.

The deputies and Malaspina gave chase and even reached speeds of 90 miles an hour on Indian Bridge Road, Malaspina testified.

Butler drove in the opposite lane on the two-lane road, the state trooper testified, and ran oncoming vehicles off the road.

By the time Butler had come out on St. Andrews Church Road other deputies joined in the chase and followed him down Route 235 once again, Malaspina testified, just as rush hour traffic was beginning to increase.

“It never crossed your mind to call of the chase,” Butler’s attorney Sean Moran asked Malaspina from the witness stand.

“I thought about it a couple of times,” Malaspina said, who added that he decided to keep up the pursuit.

Deputies Jean Vesozzi and Anthony Whipkey, who eventually wound up on the left side of Butler’s van after he made a turn onto Great Mills Road, testified that Butler made a sharp left turn that caused them to collide and wreck both vehicles.

This portion of the incident led to Butler being charged with two counts of first-degree assault on both deputies.

Vesozzi, who was driving the police cruiser, testified that his partner Whipkey was able to see Butler during the chase and motioned for him to slowdown and pull over to end it.

But Butler refused, Vesozzi said.

“He was smoking a cigarette and shook his head ‘No’,” Vesozzi testified. “The [van] took a sharp left turn into our vehicle… I thought we were going to get run off the road.”

Both cars eventually separated and Butler’s van spun out and struck a utility pole.

Officers were able to extricate Butler from the vehicle; they testified that he continually resisted and kicked Malaspina in the chest during the struggle.

Butler testified that he was merely trying to get away from the deputies because he was driving on a suspended license and was afraid he would return to prison if he were captured. Butler had six prior convictions for burglary and faces more charges of burglary after the outcome of his April 25 trial.

Butler said he did not steal the van after burglarizing a Waldorf home, as he had been charged, but instead was given the keys to the van after a party the previous evening.

Butler said he had been drinking the night of Oct. 25 at the party and stayed at the residence. He borrowed the van to go to the WaWa gas station on Route 235 to get cigarettes and food, he testified.

Detective David Alexander, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations officer who interviewed Butler after his arrest testified that Butler admitted to stealing the van after burglarizing the Waldorf home, but Butler testified that the report “was a lie.”

“I was driving on a suspended license and didn’t want to go to back to jail,” Butler testified. “They [Vesozzi and Whipkey] ended up hitting me to stop me.

“I didn’t want to hurt anybody, I just wanted to get away.”

Moran admitted that his client made many criminal mistakes that day, but argued his client did not mean to seriously injure anyone during the chase.

“It’s not about fleeing and eluding or speeding or bad weather conditions,” Moran said. “It’s about whether Butler had the intent to kill or seriously injure the deputies.”

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