The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 28, 2014

Former corrections officer pleads guilty to selling oxycodone

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

FAYETTEVILLE — A former federal corrections officer who sold oxycodone to an undercover police informant pleaded guilty Tuesday to the felony charge of delivery of a controlled substance.

James Howard Butcher, 42, of Fayetteville, faces one to 15 years in prison, up to a $25,000 fine, or both when sentenced.

Butcher’s lawyer, Chris Moorehead, told Fayette County Circuit Judge Paul Blake Jr. that pleading guilty and taking the deal with the state is what is best for his client.

He says the plea deal would mean fewer charges against his client and court proceedings would go much more quickly.

The original charges against Butcher were conspiracy, intent to deliver a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance. The deal dismissed the first two charges, leaving only delivery of a controlled substance.

As part of the deal, Butcher had to testify and admit his guilt to the judge.

Butcher, at the time of the drug deal, was working as a corrections officer at the Federal Correctional Institution - Beckley.

Butcher told the court he sold 43 oxycodone pills to an undercover informant in the garage at his home in Fayetteville. He said he’d known the informant for a couple of months before the informant called him and asked to buy some pills. Butcher says the informant gave him $2,000 in cash and bought all 43 pills.

Judge Blake asked Butcher why he sold the pills, given his status as a federal corrections officer living in a nice neighborhood.

“I knew it was wrong,” Butcher said. “Honestly, I can’t give you a good enough excuse about why I did it, your honor. I accept my mistake.”

After Butcher’s testimony, Blake walked through each part of the plea deal and what pleading guilty to a felony would mean for him in the future.

A person convicted of a felony cannot vote or carry a firearm. Any future sentences could be doubled because of his record.

Butcher made it clear that he understood the charges against him and that he was agreeing of his own free will.

Blake also reminded Butcher that he had the right to a trial by jury, but Butcher waived that right in favor of the guilty plea.

Butcher was placed on a $100,000 bond with the conditions that he can’t leave the state without permission, he has to go to probation, take random drug and alcohol tests and can’t contact the drug informant or the woman Butcher originally said bought the pills for him.

“I was scared and saying that was a mistake,” Butcher said. “I wanted to blame everyone except myself.”

After the hearing, Butcher was assigned a probation officer with whom he must stay in touch until sentencing.

Blake says the one- to 15-year sentence is called an “indeterminate sentence.” The judge doesn’t pick a number at random, but Butcher would serve at least one year before going before a parole board, with 15 years being the longest he could be imprisoned.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com