For the eighth time, a Utah man has been accused of sexual assault. The latest case, for which police arrested Samuel Heber Butler on Thursday, involved a young girl.
This incident comes just two weeks since the 24-year-old was acquitted of rape in the only case that has actually made it to a courtroom.
Butler sat on the witness stand in St. George on Jan. 30 and professed his innocence after a Dixie State University student reported in 2017 that he raped her on their first date. The next day, a jury acquitted him.
“Do you believe you pushed things too far?” his defense attorney, Michael Petro, asked Butler at the trial.
“I do not,” Butler responded, according to a courtroom recording.
“Do you believe you did anything without her consent?”
“I did not.”
What jurors didn’t hear was any details of the past accusations women have made against him —though that had been a possibility.
In fact, southern Utah prosecutors had won their motion seeking to allow police reports of past allegations to be brought up. But after his defense attorney indicated he would appeal the decision, Deputy Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum backed off.
Shaum didn’t return a request for comment Friday, but wrote in court papers that he wouldn’t present evidence of past allegations to a jury so to “expedite proceedings in this case.”
A new allegation
Two weeks after that acquittal, officers arrested Butler early Thursday in Utah County after a woman called police and told them he had just sexually abused her 6-year-old daughter.
The woman reported that she had met Butler weeks earlier on Facebook, and that he had been over at her Provo home Wednesday evening. Butler and her daughter had fallen asleep on the couch, the woman reported, and she went to her bedroom and fell asleep.
“The victim woke up her mother a few hours later,” a police officer wrote in jail booking documents, “and told her that Samuel had sexually assaulted her.”
When the woman confronted Butler, the man ran from the house.
Police say that sometime after leaving the woman’s home, Butler cut his arms and wrists with a kitchen knife, then crashed his van into a nearby car before driving away. Police arrested him just after 6 a.m. on Thursday.
The 6-year-old girl later told police that Butler had removed some of her clothing while they were on the couch, and had sexually abused her.
“The victim disclosed that Samuel told her he would never do this to her again,” a police officer wrote, “and also said Samuel told her he was sorry as well.”
Butler refused to talk to police without an attorney, according to jail documents. It’s not clear who is representing him — Petro, who defended him at trial, said he’s no longer Butler’s defense attorney.
“If the allegations are true, I would be shocked,” Petro wrote in an email. “I am not aware of anything in his background which would indicate he has a sexual attraction to children.”
‘I had told him no’
Butler’s arrest comes two weeks after a jury had spent less than three hours deliberating before finding him not guilty of a charge that could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.
Butler and the alleged victim both testified, and much of their stories were similar: They met on the dating app Tinder. He had picked her up from student housing to get coffee, but instead, took her back to his apartment to watch a movie.
While inside his room, they began kissing and she told him, “No,” several times when he began touching her breast.
But from there, their stories diverge.
He testified that she had told him she didn’t have sex on the first date — but wanted to make an exception to the rule. She helped him take her clothes off, and they had sex.
She testified that he continued to push himself on her, even after she said no. As he began taking her clothes off, she said she froze.
“I didn’t know what to do or how to react,” she testified. “At this point, I had told him no and he wasn’t listening to me. So I wasn’t sure what to do and I kind of froze up.”
She said they had intercourse — but it wasn’t consensual.
The jury wasn’t told about the previous times Butler had been accused of sexual abuse. They didn’t know that, in the four years prior to the trial, police agencies across Utah investigated six prior allegations.
Three of those cases involved adult women he met through online dating apps, who each reported to police that he had assaulted them on first dates. And, in 2015, Butler allegedly told an officer he had inappropriately touched three young girls years earlier — a statement that led police to look into his past.
A judge had ruled this past summer that jurors could read police reports involving two of his past accusers, who had reported similar accounts of unwanted sexual touching while on first dates.
Prosecutors had initially argued that the reports would show the jury that Butler had a willingness to escalate to physical force even if a woman didn’t consent.
But Petro, Butler’s attorney, appealed. He wrote to the Utah Court of Appeals that the alleged incidents were not similar enough, and noted Butler was never criminally charged in those cases.
That’s when prosecutors withdrew their plan to present past accusations in court.
Butler first came onto police’s radar in 2014, when a Brigham Young University freshman reported that Butler had taken her to a trailhead parking lot and groped her, despite her protests. Utah County prosecutors declined to file charges.
Three months later, a Utah State University student told Logan police she met Butler on a dating app, and after walking with him around campus, she drove him to a ranger station in Logan Canyon and parked.
Eventually, she alleged, he raped her, although she had asked him to stop undressing her and touching her. She said she later "felt paralyzed and thought the only way to get Sam to stop was to just let him do what he wanted," the police report said.
She reported the alleged rape three days later, but later asked for the case to be closed.
Later that year, three different police agencies received reports concerning Butler after he called 911 while walking along Interstate 15 in Utah County saying he felt suicidal, according to a Utah Highway Patrol report.
A trooper wrote that when he spoke with Butler, then 20, the young man said he was distraught because he had sexually assaulted three girls eight years earlier, in Salt Lake, Utah and Millard counties.
Butler later told a Millard County investigator that he, as a boy, had touched one of the girls, who was 4 or 5 years old, because children at that age are "forgetful and wouldn't remember it," according to a Millard County report. Butler told the investigator that his parents, religious leader and counselors knew about the incident — and that they chalked it up to Butler being a "kid discovering the world" who was curious about the female body.
The Millard County investigator later contacted the family of one alleged victim, according to the report. But the girl didn't remember anything, her parents told police, and they did not want to take action against Butler.
Unified police conducted a similar investigation in Herriman. That alleged victim was interviewed but did not disclose any inappropriate touching, according to a police report. It’s not clear whether Orem police ever followed up on a report of abuse there.
By 2016, a third woman had accused Butler of sexual assault in Utah County, reporting that she met him on a dating app and had agreed to drive with him up Provo Canyon. He pulled over and began kissing her aggressively, she reported, before he pinned her against a door and groped her.
That case was closed after the woman stopped communicating with officers, according to a police report.
It doesn’t appear that Utah investigators connected these reports until the Dixie State University student reported she was raped in 2017.
Butler has not been charged as of Friday in the latest case, and is in the Utah County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.