MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 13, 2014

Arsonist to remain free for now

Judge says Butcher better making payments than in prison

A judge said he would prefer a Tahlequah man convicted of arson to continue making restitution payments rather than go to prison.

Bronson Butcher, 29, appeared in Muskogee County District Court on Thursday for a hearing to determine if he should be sent to prison for a previous conviction. Butcher’s attorney, Donn Baker, told District Judge Tom Alford that Butcher is attending welding school and is making restitution payments.

Alford said he would prefer for Butcher to continue making restitution payments for the Oktaha Public School fire rather than go to prison.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Perez said the judge passed the hearing to May 15 over the state’s objections.

“Not everything is about money,” Perez said.

Butcher was charged as a youthful offender and later as an adult in a 2000 fire that did $2.5 million of damage at Oktaha Public School. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to second-degree arson and intimidation of a witness.

He was sentenced to 10 years on each count, but upon successful completion of a substance abuse treatment program, the remainder of his sentences were to be suspended, court records state. Butcher was also ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution.

Butcher was charged in Cherokee County with first-degree murder in the March 2011 fatal shooting of Dane Frances Dunegan in Tahlequah. The charge was filed before the Muskogee County sentences had expired, District Judge Tom Alford said.

Butcher was acquitted of the murder charge in Cherokee County. However, the prosecution filed to revoke Butcher’s sentence in Muskogee County and send him to prison, based on the charge in Cherokee County, Alford said.

“There is a different burden of proof on revocation than burden of proof at a trial,” Alford said.

Prosecutors say there is enough evidence that was presented during the trial to meet the burden of proof for the revocation, he said.

The judge is reviewing the transcript of the Cherokee County trial, he said.

“We’re going to keep looking at it,” Alford said.

Following the court session, Baker said he believes the judge will continue to pass the revocation hearing as long as Butcher continues to make restitution payments.

Butcher is making restitution payments through the Department of Corrections. He has paid $9,068 of the $25,000, said Jerry Massie, DOC public information officer.

Reach Anita Reding at (918) 684-2903 or areding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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