Ex-Utah police chief acquitted in stalking case

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DUCHESNE — A jury deliberated for about 45 minutes Thursday before acquitting a former police chief accused of stalking a woman after she called to report her car stolen.

The jury of four men and two women listened to more than five hours of testimony in the case against Thomas Wade Butterfield before finding him not guilty of stalking, unlawful detention and criminal trespass.

Butterfield, 45, smiled at his attorney after the verdict was read, but otherwise showed no outward emotion. He left the courtroom without comment.

In July 2014, Butterfield was the police chief in the small community of Myton when Ashley Crippen called to report that her car had been stolen with her purse inside. Crippen and Butterfield each testified that he offered to let her sit in his air-conditioned patrol car while they talked about the theft because it was hot outside.

Crippen told jurors she accepted the offer, but said once inside Butterfield's car, the conversation soon shifted away from finding her stolen property. She said she and Butterfield talked about pornography and Butterfield complained about his sex life.

"He told me he hadn't had sex with his wife in five years," Crippen told the jury. "He asked me if I ever thought about having sex with a cop."

During his own testimony, Butterfield acknowledged that he made "completely unprofessional" and "inappropriate" comments to Crippen, but said he never asked her to have sex with him or threatened her.

Butterfield told jurors he drove Crippen around in his patrol car to try to find her stolen vehicle. Crippen testified she told Butterfield more than once during the hour-long drive that he could let her out of the patrol car at different locations, but he ignored her.

Eventually Butterfield did drop Crippen off, only to seek her out that night with an offer to buy food for her children because her purse was still missing. Crippen testified that she agreed to meet Butterfield and let him buy the food. During the meeting, he suggested that she go with him to his part-time job at a remote location near the Green River "because it gets lonely out there," Crippen said.

"I never expected her to go," Butterfield told jurors.

Crippen testified about one other encounter with Butterfield, telling jurors she woke up one morning to find him in her bedroom. When she asked him how he got into her trailer home, Crippen said Butterfield told her, "I'm a cop. They teach us how to do those kinds of things."

Butterfield denied making the comment and described the incident differently during his testimony. The front door of Crippen's trailer was open when he arrived to follow up on the stolen car case, he told jurors. Crippen's aunt also testified that the trailer door was open earlier in the morning when she arrived at the trailer to pick up a child.

Butterfield said he stood in the open doorway and called Crippen's name for "about 3 minutes" before she stumbled to the door, mumbling and incoherent. They went inside the trailer, according to Butterfield, where Crippen sat down on a couch.

"She asked me if I had any candy," Butterfield testified. "I asked her if she was a diabetic and if she needed an ambulance."

Crippen's stepfather arrived at the trailer a short time later and gave her a soda, Butterfield said, adding that the sugary drink seemed to help Crippen recover. Crippen and Butterfield both testified that he spoke with her stepfather for about 30 minutes before leaving the trailer.

During closing arguments, Duchesne County prosecutor Grant Charles conceded to jurors that he wasn't sure the state had proved the unlawful detention charge beyond a reasonable doubt. He argued, however, that there was more than enough evidence to convict Butterfield on the stalking and criminal trespass charges.

Defense attorney Earl Xaiz argued though that the state failed to prove the trepassing charge and could not show that Butterfield's conduct rose to the level of stalking, as defined by state law.

"The purpose of this trial is not to judge Mr. Butterfield morally," Xaiz said during closing arguments. "If it was, we'd be done. Because what he did was totally inappropriate conduct for a law enforcement officer."

"You have to set aside the morality of what he's done," Xaiz continued, urging jurors to follow the law and acquit his client.

Butterfield was initially accused in September 2014 of stalking three women. Judge Samuel Chiara dismissed one stalking count following a preliminary hearing and ordered Butterfield to stand trial on the remaining charges.

The Duchesne County case was not the first time Butterfield had been accused of inappropriate conduct involving women, according to court records, interviews with former employers and with a woman who says Butterfield victimized her.

Holli Stewart told the Deseret News in November 2014 that she found Butterfield sitting on the edge of her bed in 1999 after ending her relationship with him.

"What are you doing here? … How did you get in?" Stewart asked.

"He said, 'Holli, I'm a cop. They teach us how to do that. I can get in anywhere,'" she recalled.

Butterfield, who was a Lehi police officer at the time, was charged in 4th District Court with criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor. As part of a plea deal, the charge was amended to an infraction and he pleaded no contest, according to court records.

The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council subsequently suspended his law enforcement certification for a year, adjusting his suspension to begin in November 1999.

When the suspension ended, Butterfield returned to law enforcement, working over the next 14 years for the Spring City and Roosevelt police departments, and the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.

Butterfield resigned from the sheriff's office in December 2010 while he was the subject of an internal investigation into alleged misconduct involving a woman, according to Sheriff David Boren. Roosevelt Police Chief Rick Harrison said he fired Butterfield in April 2013 after two women made allegations that he had acted inappropriately toward them.

In July 2014, Butterfield was hired by Myton to run its newly organized police department. He was placed on administrative leave when the criminal charges were filed in September and ultimately fired on Oct. 31. Butterfield has since relinquished his police certification, which means his law enforcement career in Utah is permanently over, according to state regulators.

Jurors in Thursday's trial were not allowed to hear any information about the issues during Butterfield's law enforcement career. Despite his acquittal, Butterfield still faces one additional count of stalking that stems from allegations made by another Myton woman. A trial date in that case has not been set.


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Geoff Liesik


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