A state lawmaker’s husband, who hitched someone else’s utility trailer to the back of his pickup and drove it back to his house, insisted to police that he had no intention of stealing the equipment.
Stan Butt, a businessman, minister and executive director of the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association, told investigators that he’d previously seen a “For Sale” sign on the trailer that was parked in a lot near the Ace Hardware in Columbia, a police report says. Butt, who is married to state Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, said he tried “every avenue he could think of to find out the owner of the trailer,” the report says, but was unable to find out who that person was.
At least one of 12 grand jurors believed him. A grand jury failed to indict Butt on charges in connection with the trailer incident, which happened last month in Columbia, Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper said.
It turns out that the city of Columbia owns the trailer that Stan Butt took home. It was part of a sting operation that police were using, similar to a bait car, that would help officers determine who was stealing similar types of equipment around town, Cooper said.
The prosecutor insists Butt was not given special treatment and that’s why it was left up to a grand jury to decide whether to charge him.
“Whether it was Stan Butt or John Doe, the facts of this case were so unusual we would have investigated further and taken the case to the grand jury,” Cooper said.
Stan Butt did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Unlike most criminals, Cooper said, Butt actually admitted to taking the equipment. The lawmaker’s husband said he drove off with it and then called the number on a car that was for sale and even asked that person if she was selling the trailer. Surveillance video, Cooper said, showed Stan Butt driving off with it in broad daylight in a truck marked with the name of Butt’s business.
Grand jurors were given the option of indicting him on charges of theft over $1,000, attempted theft over $1,000, which are both felonies, or the misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Still, Cooper said he can’t fathom why Butt would think it was OK to drive off with the trailer, even in an effort to buy it.
“That’s what’s so unusual about this case,” Cooper said. “Nobody I know would do what he did.”