Utah man acquitted of rape last month now charged with raping a child

(Courtesy of Washington County Sheriff's Office) Samuel Heber Butler

A Utah man was charged Tuesday with five felony counts, accused of sexually assaulting a young girl and offering her mother money to keep her from calling the police.

The latest charges against Samuel Heber Butler is the eighth time the 24-year-old has been accused of sexual assault.

It’s the second time prosecutors have charged him. A little over two weeks ago, Butler was acquitted of sexually assaulting a Dixie State University student in 2017.

He was arrested last week after a woman called police to report that he had just sexually abused her 6-year-old.

Butler was charged in 4th District Court with rape of a child, sodomy of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, sexual abuse of a child and tampering with a witness.

The alleged victim’s mother reported to police that she had met Butler weeks earlier on Facebook, and that he had been over at her Provo home last Wednesday evening. Butler and her daughter had fallen asleep on the couch, the woman reported, and she went to her bedroom and fell asleep.

Charging documents allege that Butler took off his clothes, and some of the girl’s clothing, and sexually assaulted the young girl.

"According to the victim, [Butler] told her he wanted to 'marry her,'" Deputy Utah County Attorney Dave Sturgill wrote in charging documents. "He also apologized for what he'd done and promised it wouldn't happen again."

The girl quickly went to her mother’s bedroom, according to charges, and asked if she could sleep in her bed because Butler kept touching her. When the mother confronted Butler, he allegedly begged her to not call the police and offered her money.

He drove away from the woman’s home, but surrendered to police the following morning.

No court date has been set as of Tuesday afternoon.

Butler previously had been charged with rape in 2017, after a woman reported that he forced himself on her during their first date.

Butler and the alleged victim both testified at his trial last month, 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.

He testified that he did have sex with the woman but said it was consensual. He also admitted that he had told the woman after they had sex that he loved her and wanted to marry her — but he said he was embarrassed by it.

“It the kind of stupid stuff I say to try to justify my current lifestyle with how I was raised,” he testified, “in a religious home where premarital sex was something that wasn’t supposed to happen.”

The alleged victim 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.”

The jury, who deliberated for less than three hours before acquitting Butler, 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 had 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.

Deputy Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum said Tuesday that the Utah attorney general’s office had advised him to rethink his trial strategy, saying that they weren’t sure the cases were similar enough to survive an appeal.

The prosecutor said he felt his case was enough to stand on its own.

"I believed our case was the strongest case out there at this point," he said. "She said no. He even admits she said no. I'm thinking this is a pretty solid case."

But Shaum said that he spoke to jurors after the acquittal, and said it was disappointing to hear that the jurors felt it was significant that the alleged victim had met Butler on Tinder, which they thought was a “hook-up” site — despite the woman’s testimony that she had been using it to go on dates, not to have casual sex.

“This whole experience tells me that we have a lot of work to do in helping the public understand the nature of sexual assault in dating situations,” he said, “and what it means to say no and that should be enough.”

But Shaum said he wasn’t surprised to learn that Butler is accused of another sexual assault.

“I am disappointed,” he said, “I’m extremely devastated. I mean, how many time has he been interviewed by police? He’s been interviewed by one jurisdiction after another after another. And it’s not stopping.”