Marshall University Football Player Steward Butler Could Face Hate Crime Charges

Marshall running back Steward Butler (20) runs past Southern Mississippi linebacker Terrick Wright (14) for a touchdown in th
Marshall running back Steward Butler (20) runs past Southern Mississippi linebacker Terrick Wright (14) for a touchdown in the first half of their NCAA college football game in Hattiesburg, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Coleman)

A Marshall University football player charged with allegedly beating a gay couple in West Virginia last month has been kicked off the team and could now face federal hate crime charges.

School officials announced Wednesday that senior running back Steward Butler has been released from the team.

Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick shared the news on Twitter:

Butler, 23, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery in Huntington, West Virginia, on Wednesday. He was released on $10,000 bond, the Associated Press reports.

Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli told USA Today that the FBI is conducting a hate crime inquiry into the alleged incident.

Huntington police say the alleged incident occurred April 5, early in the morning.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Casey Williams, 20, and Zack Johnson, 21, said they were walking back to their hotel from a nightclub in Huntington. They kissed, and that's when a car pulled up and Butler allegedly began yelling anti-gay slurs from the vehicle's passenger seat.

“He called us faggots, queers, you name it,” Williams told Buzzfeed, adding that Butler and his party were strangers to them. “We were trying to ignore him, but he jumped out of the car and came running up to us.”

Two more men followed Butler out of the car, said Williams. Johnson, realizing a confrontation was about to happen, started taking photos and video.

“Butler punched [Johnson] in the ear and the temple area," Williams told Buzzfeed. "He was hitting to cause damage. It was one strike with a closed fist. Then he punched me in the head. It was on the face, in the cheek.”

Police told local news station WSAZ that Butler claimed he acted in self-defense.

Gary G. White, interim president of Marshall University, said the school’s community was “shocked and disappointed” to learn of the alleged incident.

“The type of violent, bigoted behavior reported to have been perpetrated by this student is not tolerated at Marshall University. Period," said White in a statement Wednesday. "This is an extremely serious matter."



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