WOODSTOCK – A probationer learned Wednesday he shouldn’t call a judge “dude.”
Mitchell Hagger Butler appeared in Shenandoah County Circuit Court via video while held at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on alleged probation violations. Butler, 32, of Strasburg, stands accused of violating his probation, which was imposed for two drug convictions. A judge issued a warrant for Butler’s arrest and ordered the probationer’s appearance in court.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley told Judge Kevin Black that the jail accidentally released Butler early before serving his nine-month sentence.
Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced Butler on Jan. 9 to serve nine months of a five-year prison term for distribution of methadone and five years, all time suspended, for a second conviction of the same offense. Hupp ordered Butler to complete four years of supervised probation followed by two years of unsupervised probation.
Online records show Butler was booked in the jail on Feb. 15 and then released May 9.
Earlier during the Wednesday session, the judge asked how a person ordered to appear in court could refuse to do so.
“I’m not going to let the loonies run the funny farm,” Black said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Strecky advised Black that “this is not an unusual circumstance for Mr. Butler.” Strecky added that the court usually receives a letter noting his refusal.
A memorandum dated July 2 states that officer A. Anderson went to take Mitchell out of an intake cell at 7:56 a.m. Tuesday. The Circuit Court received the memorandum at 7:59 a.m. Wednesday, according to the official time stamp.
“(Butler) said he didn’t want to go, he wasn’t going to go, and that he refused to go. End of report,” Anderson states in the memorandum.
Black asked Butler why he did not appear in person in court, along with other inmates brought to the facility.
“I was asleep,” Butler said. “You know, this is none of my fault 'cause the jail released me early and I went back to work and they’re trying to play these games.”
Black stopped Butler and asked him again to explain why he didn’t appear in court.
“Well I ain’t in court 'cause ... nobody come got me this morning,” Butler said.
“They didn’t wake ya up, huh?” Black asked.
“I’m right here,” Butler replied. “I’m sittin’ here wondering why they playin’ games with me.”
Black went on to say Butler was scheduled to appear in court based on a report of an alleged probation violation. The judge repeatedly asked Butler to stop talking as he explained the situation.
“I’m not arguing with you,” Black said. “I’m telling you why you’re here.”
Black then asked Butler questions about his ability to afford an attorney or if he wanted the court to appoint legal counsel. At one point during the ensuing exchange, Butler asked how he could afford to hire an attorney while held in jail. Butler asked if the court would grant his release on bond so he can hire an attorney.
“It’s not ‘I’m gonna hire my attorney judge if you let me outta jail,’” Black said. “I’m asking you 'do you plan to hire your own attorney' or do you want to consider appointing an attorney.”
Butler eventually said he wanted Black to consider appointing an attorney but then started to talk about his current case and said he “didn’t do nothing wrong.”
“That’ll be for another day,” Black said.
The judge asked Butler if he had read the major violation report completed by the probation officer.
“Dude, the only thing they told me was the jail-” Butler started to say.
“You got an attitude problem, sir,” Black interjected. “You’re not calling me dude.”
The judge had to interrupt Butler and stop the probationer from talking about the particulars of the allegation. Black again asked Butler if he had read the major violation report. Butler said no one had told him about a major probation violation.
“The only thing that he told me was they released me early,” Butler said.
Black advised Butler to read the report.
The judge continued to ask Butler questions about his finances and dependents to determine if he qualified for a court-appointed attorney. Black said Butler qualified for an attorney and appointed Assistant Public Defender Peter McDermott to represent him.
“I don’t want him,” Butler said.
“You don’t get to pick who you get,” Black told Butler. “That’s who you get. If you want to hire somebody else, you can certainly hire somebody else.”
“How can I hire someone else while I’m sitting in jail, your honor?” Butler asked.
“Well, that’ll be between you and Mr. McDermott to talk about,” Black replied.
The judge proceeded to ask parties about scheduling a date for the next proceeding in the case.
“Y’all make me losing my mind and I’m done with you,” Butler said. “Peace out.”
Butler could then be heard saying an expletive but the judge did not respond. Rather, the judge continued to talk to the attorneys about scheduling the case. Black then set a hearing on July 24 to determine if the probationer should receive a bond.