Firm News

Fort Myers Man Gets 15 Years for Fatal Drunk Driving Crash

Note: Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, represents the family of Maria Bustamante in the pending civil suit, which seeks compensation for the family devastated by the drunk driving crash near Fort Myers Beach

Man gets 15 years in DUI deaths
BY PAT GILLESPIE
The News-Press
pgillespie@news-press.com
 January 27, 2009

Jesus Martinez

George Butler faced 30 1/2 years to life in prison, but Lee Circuit Judge Margaret Steinbeck decided to sentence him to less than the minimum sentence because of his mental capacity and his remorse.

"The court finds that a lengthy prison term is appropriate to punish the defendant, but not the 30 1/2 years to life," Steinbeck said. "The court believes the defendant when he says he believes he wishes he would have died instead of the victims."
Butler pleaded no contest in December to 12 charges related to the Jan. 14, 2007, crash that killed Jordy Martinez, 1, and Jesus Martinez, 6. Also injured were their older brother, mother (Maria Bustamante) and a friend of the mother.

In announcing her decision, Steinbeck said that Butler is willing to be treated for his bipolar disorder, that the crime was unsophisticated and isolated and that Butler's IQ of 75 - five points higher than what is considered mental retardation - gives him the reasoning of a fourth- or fifth-grader.All those factors allowed her to sentence Butler, who had no prearranged sentence in place, below guidelines.

Jordy Martinez

Butler also will serve two years of community control, five years on drug-offender probation and 10 years on probation. His driver license is permanently revoked and he is ordered not to consume alcohol or go to any places that primarily serve alcohol.

During two separate and lengthy hearings in December, Steinbeck listened to attorney arguments and three hours of testimony from both families. Most of the witnesses cried on the stand.

Assistant state attorney Marie Doerr argued Butler's acts killed two children and ripped apart their family.

But Butler's attorney, Sean O'Halloran of Fort Myers, argued Butler has shown remorse because he's pleading no contest to the 12 charges he faces instead of going to trial. He also argued that Butler has no criminal history and that his mental capacity prevented him from making the correct decision.

"It was a difficult case on both sides," O'Halloran said after the hearing.

Doerr said she didn't agree with Steinbeck's finding that Butler, whose blood-alcohol level was .196 - or more than twice the legal limit - acted like a fourth- or fifth-grader.

"If that's true, you have to wonder, one, how does he get a driver's license in the first place, and two, most fourth-graders don't decide to go to bars and drink until they're more than twice the legal limit," she said.

George Butler

Doerr said she was disappointed with the judge's decision. She said that once Butler receives credit for the time he has served in jail, coupled with what's called gain time prison inmates receive, he will be out of prison in 10 years.

"With the exception of the probation conditions, he's free to go about his life," she said. "But, the family will still be mourning their two young children."

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