Wednesday, June 25, 2003

First on trial in prank gets jail

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - One of five Mason High graduates charged in a senior prank that left a peacock and rabbit dead was sent to jail for a week Tuesday, a sentence that left her father stunned and angry.

"This really stumps me. We would have never pleaded to this," said 18-year-old Maria Butler's father, Craig.

"I don't believe Maria's involvement deserved any kind of punishment except to bring her in here and scare her. What Maria should have done is fought this to the end."

Craig Butler said he is considering filing a lawsuit against the family that allowed their property to be used for a teen drinking party where the students came up with the idea to steal the animals and release them into Mason High School.

His daughter, who was accused of driving a boyfriend to school June 3 with a stolen rabbit in his book bag, pleaded no contest last week to a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property.

The rabbit was returned unharmed. But, another rabbit died during the theft, and a peacock had to be euthanized after it was found in a car in the school parking lot.

Maria Butler, who was not directly involved in the theft of the animals from a Deerfield Township hobby farm, was the first of the students to complete her court case.

"What were you thinking?" Mason Municipal Judge George Parker asked her before passing sentence. Butler was unable to explain her actions, other than to say she "wasn't thinking"at the time and wasn't present during the theft.

Parker sentenced Butler to 30 days, and suspended 23 of them. He said she will be released each day to work "cleaning out stalls" at the local animal shelter. Parker also placed her on probation for 21/2 years,and ordered her to pay a $500 fine and a $400 reimbursement to the family whose animals were taken.

Her lawyer, David Batsche, said it's an omen for the others who face charges in the case.

"I'd be concerned if I were them," Batsche said. "It's obvious the judge is taking it very serious."


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