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6 months in jail for ex-athlete in attack on kissing men

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) A former Marshall University football player was sentenced Monday to six months in jail in an attack on two men he saw kissing.

Steward Butler was accused of punching the men and shouting homophobic slurs after seeing them kissing outdoors in Huntington in April 2015. Butler apologized before being sentenced on two counts of battery.

In May, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of felony civil rights charges against Butler. Circuit Judge Paul Farrell ruled last year that Butler could not be charged with a hate crime because it appeared that state lawmakers intended to leave protections based on sexual orientation out of the law.

The Supreme Court said lawmakers have rejected every attempt to include sexual orientation since the law was enacted three decades ago. The high court said there have been at least 26 failed attempts to amend the statute to include sexual orientation.

At Monday's sentencing, Cabell County assistant prosecutor Lauren Plymale ridiculed the state law and sought the maximum sentence for Butler, who had faced up to a year on each count. Plymale previously argued in court that sexual-orientation discrimination should fall under the West Virginia code banning sex discrimination.

The two men did not attend the hearing. Both are now police officers.

At his plea hearing in July, Butler admitted to marijuana use and Farrell ordered him to be drug tested weekly.

Butler was a running back at Marshall from 2012 to 2014. His best season was in 2014 when he ran for 798 yards and seven touchdowns.

Updated September 25, 2017

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