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Judge: Former college running back won't be tried for hate crime for attack on gay couple

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Despite allegedly attacking a gay couple, Steward Butler won't get tried for a hate crime if this judge has anything to do with it.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A judge has decided that former Marshall running back Steward Butler will not be put on trial for a hate crime for his alleged attack on a gay couple because they were a gay couple. According to The Intelligencer, Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Paul Farrell said that West Virginia state law does not protect people based on their sexual orientation. Of course, a Federal judge said late last year that Title IX's gender protections do extend to gay people because of the gender of their partners. Interpretation is everything.

What's the practical difference the judge's decision makes? If convicted of a hate crime, Butler would face up to 10 years in prison. Now the maximum he'll get is two years. That's eight years he won't have to think about his attack on two people simply because of their exercising their Freedom of Association.

There's still a chance the Feds will step in and do something about it. And the prosecutor is appealing in hopes of getting a judge to allow this to move forward as a hate crime. But chances are this guy is going to get off lightly, even if this case does set the state in the direction of adding sexual orientation to its hate-crimes protections.