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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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7/12/2013 10:22:00 AM
8.5 years for helicopter bomber
Richard Thomas Butts
Richard Thomas Butts

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

"I apologize for the danger I put people in," Richard Thomas Butts told Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff. "I now have a better handle on my addiction."

The28-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday for a DUI as well as for fire bombing a Verde Valley Medical Center helicopter.

Butts will serve 8 and a half years in prison, less 409 days already served in the county jail.

Butts' mother said that her son "did a terrible thing. Something in his mind was not Ricky," she said.

In opening comments for the mitigation hearing that preceded sentencing, Defense Attorney Terry Hance said that Butts has been "very troubled for a long period of time." He suffers from "an underlying mental illness that included auditory hallucinations," according to a 40-page mental review. He also "self -medicated with alcohol."

"We tried to help, but alcohol was a big factor," said Butts' father.

The helicopter incident, according to Hance, was "extreme and a hugely dangerous situation."

Butts was also sentenced for a DUI incident that involved three Arizona State University students from Quatar and a truck driver. The student's car was destroyed, but there were no serious injuries.

Prosecutor Rob Johnson said that making a Molotov cocktail shows "premeditation" and was a "senseless act."

He had asked for 12 years in prison.

Judge Bluff acknowledged the mitigating factors of Butts' mental illness, and his upbringing, as mitigating factors and sentenced Butts to minimum sentences for both the DUI on the Interstate and the helicopter fire-bombing.

The Angel-3 medical helicopter was placed back in service in November 2012. The damaged helicopter was trucked to Louisiana to Bell Helicopter repair facilities to be repaired.

During the six-month period the helicopter was being repaired, another Bell helicopter was leased to the Medical Center.

Repairs to the craft totaled about $250,000.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Article comment by: What The...

Hey Jon.

Reviewing your first two articles, I thought this was a "terrorist act."

Shouldn't Richard serve his time down in Guantanamo Bay?

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