By Nick Gardner
FRESNO—A Fresno teen was sentenced here in Fresno County Superior Court Wednesday to about a year in jail for reckless driving following a 2019 incident that left five people with serious injuries, including a mother and her one-year-old child.
On March 3, 2019, Timothy Butler was driving home from a baseball game in Fresno when he rear-ended a slower moving vehicle, causing his own car to flip into oncoming traffic.
As Butler’s car barreled down westbound traffic on Highway 180, it collided with a vehicle carrying a family of five—three were young children, including a one-year-old child who sustained brain injuries and was rushed to Valley Children’s Hospital.
During the collision, Butler, just 19 years old, was thrown through the car’s front window and rendered unconscious. Butler was still unconscious by the time paramedics arrived at the scene, and was found lying facedown on the side of the highway with a broken back.
Initially, the California Highway Patrol believed that Butler was under the influence when he initiated the seven-car pileup just east of Temperance Avenue.
Prior to the collision, Butler admitted to being at a baseball game with friends where he was smoking marijuana and possibly consuming alcohol. According to Butler, he was “Ok” to drive because his friends had made sure he wasn’t “too f****** up.”
However, upon arriving at the hospital and regaining consciousness, Butler admitted to a drug recognition expert that he had consumed alcohol, smoked marijuana, and was on Adderall for ADHD.
The expert immediately concluded that Butler was under the influence of all three, but an ensuing toxicology only identified trace amounts of marijuana in Butler’s system.
As for the testimony made in the emergency room, Butler’s attorney argued that his client “was out of his head” due to being unconscious for an extended period of time.
“I understand that this is an egregious accident, but I totally disagree with any comments about alcohol [and other substances] because there is none,” Butler’s attorney told the court.
Butler’s case had been heard previously by Fresno Judge Kent Hamlin, and during this trial the prosecutor had been unable to provide sufficient evidence that Butler was under the influence at the time of the crash.
Butler appeared in Fresno Department 20 Wednesday with Judge Adolfo Corona, who had been left with an indicated sentence from Judge Hamlin, which recommended that Butler, pleading to one count of reckless driving with serious injury, receive three years formal probation and 365 days in county jail.
The district attorney’s motion was for the court to adopt probation’s suggested sentence of three years in custody.
Reluctantly, Judge Corona decided to stick with Hamlin’s suggestion.
“This is painful for me to do, but I’m going to support Judge Hamlin’s indicated [sentence]. But the complete devastation in the wake—I don’t like it.”
Butler will be remanded into custody to serve out a 365-day sentence in the Fresno County Jail. Upon release, he will receive three years of formal probation.
Judge Corona concluded the morning session with a few words of wisdom for the young man, who sustained serious injuries in the collision
“Mr. Butler, we have to serve on earth to keep everyone safe,” said the judge. “You have to be at full strength to serve other people and keep a peaceful place and leave earth a better place than when you started.”
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