Update: Notre Dame CB Devin Butler enters not guilty plea

ND Insider Staff Report
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — (Update: Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.) Suspended Notre Dame football player Devin Butler made his first appearance in court Wednesday after being charged with two felonies for allegedly resisting law enforcement and battering a police officer.

Dressed in a white shirt and black tie, and wearing a walking boot on his injured left foot, Butler appeared before St. Joseph Superior Court Magistrate Elizabeth Hardtke, who entered a preliminary not-guilty plea for the Notre Dame cornerback.

Butler is scheduled to appear in court again Sept. 1 for an initial hearing before Judge Jeffrey Sanford.

Butler was flanked by his father and his girlfriend, Haleigh Bailey, as he entered and left the courtroom. It was not clear if he had an attorney with him, though he told Hardtke he planned to hire a lawyer.

"On the advice of counsel, I have no comment at this time," Butler told reporters who shouted questions at him as he left the courthouse.

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St. Joseph County prosecutors have charged suspended Notre Dame football player Devin Butler, accusing him of felony counts of resisting law enforcement and battery of a police officer after an altercation early Saturday morning at a bar near campus.

Prosecutors filed the two Level 6 felony charges against Butler on Tuesday afternoon in St. Joseph Superior Court. A level 6 felony carries a penalty of up to 2½ years in prison if convicted.

Butler's arraignment is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Police responded to the Linebacker bar, 1631 South Bend Ave., just after midnight on Saturday morning for a report of a fight between some patrons and bar security. Bar security told police they had already broken up that fight and did not need police involvement, so officers went outside and saw two women fighting near the curb.

As police separated the women, Butler, who appeared to be "extremely irate," walked toward one of the women and shoved her, said South Bend police Lt. Joseph Galea.

When police ordered Butler to step back, he began cursing at the officers and approached them, according to court documents. When the officers attempted to physically detain Butler, he pushed officer Aaron Knepper, picked him up and tackled him to the ground, according to the affidavit. A struggle ensued, during which Butler struck Knepper in the side and stomach several times, police say.

After Butler grabbed Knepper's duty belt and "physically ripped it off of him," according to the affidavit, Knepper subdued Butler using a Taser.

None of the charges were related to Butler shoving the woman, because the women left the scene before he was arrested.

Knepper was taken to Memorial Hospital to be evaluated for minor injuries to his elbow, wrist, neck, back and arm, and was later released. Butler was released on $1,000 cash bond Saturday afternoon.

Click on the PDF to read the full South Bend Police Department Probable Cause Affidavit.

Knepper's work as an officer has drawn attention in the past, with three allegations of misconduct resulting in lawsuits.

In March 2014, Knepper arrested 55-year-old Tom Stevens of South Bend and Stevens' 76-year-old mother on suspicion of resisting arrest and battery to a police officer after initially stopping Stevens for a traffic violation near his Sunnymede home. Stevens was hospitalized for three days, and he and his mother claimed they did not strike Knepper, but that he was unnecessarily rough with them. Stevens later pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and had his other charges dropped.

Knepper was suspended without pay for an August 2012 incident in which he and two other officers pressured a 7-Eleven clerk to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon and to eat 10 crackers in less than a minute. That clerk filed suit, claiming the officers humiliated him and violated his civil rights.

Earlier this month, a jury found that Knepper and the same two other officers behaved unconstitutionally when they burst into a South Bend home without a warrant in July 2012. The officers used a Taser on and arrested a sleeping 17-year-old whom they had mistaken for the teen's older brother. Despite the guilty verdict, the jury awarded damages of only $1. The city found the officers had entered the home illegally and used excessive force, but they were not suspended.

Five more Irish football players — safety Max Redfield, cornerback Ashton White, running back Dexter Williams, linebacker Te'von Coney and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson — were also arrested Friday night in a separate incident in Fulton County. All five were accused of possession of marijuana, while Redfield, Williams and Stepherson were accused of possession of a handgun without a license as well.

As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, charges had yet to be filed against Redfield, White, Williams, Coney and Stepherson.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced on Sunday that Redfield has been dismissed and Butler has been indefinitely suspended from the program.

"The expectations we set for the members of our team are high, but they are especially so for the upperclassmen who are expected to provide leadership and a positive example to the other members of the team," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement on Sunday.

"Max and, at least at this stage in the review of his case, Devin, have failed in that regard and so have lost the privilege of continuing to be part of our team."

Kelly declined to comment further on Butler's status on Tuesday.

A 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior cornerback, Butler was not expected to play until at least October after suffering the recurrence of a broken foot in June. The senior does have starting experience but was expected to compete for a backup position when he returned.

Beyond Kelly's decision, Butler also will have to answer to Notre Dame's disciplinary arm, as well.

"Any student arrested on a felony charge also faces dismissal from the university," Paul Browne, Notre Dame VP for public affairs and communications said in a statement on Saturday morning. "The university will determine if additional sanctions should apply to any or all of the students charged."

The fall semester of classes at Notre Dame began Tuesday. The 10th-ranked Irish open their season at Texas on Sept. 4.

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame football player Devin Butler, middle, walks next to his dad Tony Butler and girlfriend Haleigh Bailey into St. Joseph Superior Court, Wednesday, August 24, 2016 in South Bend. St. Joseph County prosecutors have charged the suspended football player on felony counts of resisting law enforcement and battery of a police officer after an altercation early Saturday morning at a bar near campus. (Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)
Notre Dame cornerback Devin Butler was formally charged with resisting arrest and battery of a police officer, both felonies, on Tuesday. ( St. Joseph County Jail)