BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After last year’s unrest in Baltimore, federal investigators vowed to bring rioters to justice.
Wearing a gas mask and cutting a fire hose, the video was blasted out nationwide during the Freddie Gray riots.
The man behind the mask won’t serve a day in federal prison.
In July, 22-year-old Greg Butler pleaded guilty to obstructing firefighters, admitting to slicing a fire hose with a knife as crews tried to put out the flames at a CVS.
Today, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced him to three years of supervised release, after giving him credit for 5 weeks of time served. Butler faced a maximum of five years in jail.
“We need to hold accountable, the people who try to destroy the city,” said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
In court on Thursday, prosecutors showed video of Butler celebrating afterwards–even high fiving people, before he was later arrested while looting at a 7-Eleven.
Prosecutors played recordings of Butler in jail making phone calls and provided transcripts. The transcripts and recordings showed Butler making comments such as “I’m thugging against the world. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Butler admitted to even signing an autograph that day after he cut the hose.
When Butler addressed the courtroom, he said “I was lost that day. Everything fell south on me. I felt like I had no family and I couldn’t turn to anyone. I panicked and showed my actions. I’m thankful no one got hurt. I was angry and directed it at so many of the wrong people.”
A pump operator for the Baltimore City Fire Department took the stand for prosecutors Thursday in court. The 13-year-veteran was working off the hose that Greg Butler punctured twice on April 27th. He described the day like “something out of a movie” and said, “Usually people are always happy to see the fire department, that day they weren’t. Some people were even yelling at me not to hook up to the hydrant.”
A detective for Baltimore City police also took the stand for prosecutors. He says Butler initially provided a different name when he was taken into custody the night of April 27th and that once he was arrested at the 7-Eleven, he tried to take off before he was put into a police van.
The 22-year-old–who many expected to get jail time—was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release.
“I think Greg got a second chance to show the city of Baltimore he’s really sorry for what he did on that day last April,” said federal public defender Liz Oyer.
Baltimore City Emergency Manager Bob Maloney spoke in favor of Butler.
He says he studied video from that day and wanted to meet Butler and help him. Maloney says Butler had never been in serious trouble and didn’t think sending him to prison would help.
Butler’s high school basketball coach also spoke in favor of him, saying he was a good kid who worked hard and never knew of him getting into trouble until this incident.
Others involved in the riots weren’t as lucky as Butler.
Over the summer, 20-year-old Donta Betts was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the riots.
Before Betts, Raymon Carter was sentenced to 4 years in prison for the burning of the CVS pharmacy.
“Everybody moved off emotion, it was more emotion than thinking,” said Tony Brown, who lives in West Baltimore.
Some in the Penn North community say those individuals deserve second chances as they continue to rebuild.
“Everybody need to come together as one and start helping,” said Brown.
Judge Motz admitted that the charges against Butler warrant a higher sentence, but he believes the 22-year-old has potential and learned his lesson. He says Butler’s history of staying out of trouble other than this incident and those who spoke about his character, played a role in his decision to sentence Butler to 3 years of supervised probation, 250 hours of community service and to pay $1 million in restitution.