Tragic DUI Case in Felony Court; Two Sons Died, Man Faces Life in Prison
DUI driver spares victims' family trial pain
BY PAT GILLESPIE
Copyright The News-Press
A judge listened to testimony Friday, but has not yet determined a prison sentence for a man who caused a drunken-driving crash that killed two boys.
George Butler, 34, of Fort Myers, faces between 30 1/2 years and life in prison for causing a wreck near Fort Myers Beach on Jan. 14, 2007. Jordy Martinez, 1, and Jesus Martinez, 6, were killed in the crash, which also injured their older brother, mother and mother's friend. Butler's possible sentence range is high because of severity of injuries and number of charges.
The hearing Friday was set because Butler has decided to plead no contest to every charge directly to Lee Circuit Judge Margaret Steinbeck, without benefit of a pre-arranged plea agreement. Assistant state attorney Marie Doerr said Butler rejected a plea offer of 30 years and 5 months in prison. That is the lowest sentence Steinbeck could impose based on sentencing guidelines.
Because the hearing lasted more than three hours instead of 90 minutes it was scheduled for, Steinbeck continued it until Monday, when attorneys will argue about what sentence she should impose. She said she will listen to their arguments and issue Butler's sentence in writing at a later date.
Butler said in court he preferred to plead to Steinbeck instead of go to a trial to save the family from seeing pictures from the accident or having to testify.
"I didn't want the family to go through anything else," he said. "I'm sorry for what happened. There's no way to explain how I feel. If I could take it back, I would. I'm so greatly sorry."
Members of both families sobbed openly as they spoke about their pain because of the accident. Butler's mother Yolanda spoke to the Martinez family, apologizing for what her son has admitted to doing.
"I would just like to tell the parents of the children that were killed and injured there has not been a day or an hour that I have not thought and prayed for them. I know that they have a hole in their heart and I'm so sorry that this has happened to them," she said, tearing up and, at times, unable to speak. "I ask that God will bless them and that the lives of everyone involved will be changed. And all I can say, even though it's completely inadequate, is that I'm sorry."
Maria Del Rosario Bustamante, who was injured in the accident - along with her oldest son Juan, 12, and friend Elisa Castillero - was poised, but cried aloud when remembering the accident.
"They were not supposed to die - they were only children; they had a life ahead of them," she said through a Spanish interpreter. "My life has been a torture each and every day since that happened, since that day."
But, she said, she wants the judge to be fair with Butler's sentence.
"We are all human beings," she said. "We the parents have been suffering and I know that some other people are suffering as well. I just want everything to be fair. There's only one God and he's the one that judges everything. I only request justice to be served, that's all."
Butler's father was an alcoholic and he testified he tried to steer his son from booze.
On behalf of Butler, Fort Myers psychiatrist Frederick Schaerf testified Butler's IQ is 75, which is five points higher than mental retardation. Schaerf said Butler also is bipolar and mixing alcohol with medications he was taking - Lithium and Prozac - would turn him from his typical introverted state to likable and outgoing.
"I'm in no way trying to minimize this," Schaerf said. "I'm just trying to explain what caused this perfect storm to occur."