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Career offender gets 17-year prison sentence

ASHEVILLE — Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger handed down a lengthy sentence last week to a Hendersonville man convicted of trafficking cocaine, fentanyl, prescription pills and other narcotics in and around Henderson County, Acting U.S. Attorney William T. Stetzer announced.

Eric Charles Butler, 57, pleaded guilty on Dec. 9 to two counts of possession with intent to distribute narcotics, for which he was charged separately by federal criminal indictments. Reidinger ordered Butler to serve 17 years in prison for each count of conviction, to be served concurrently, and to remain under court supervision for six years upon completion of the prison term. As a result of Butler’s multiple prior drug convictions, the court sentenced him as a career offender.
Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which oversees the Asheville Post of Duty, Sheriff Lowell S. Griffin of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, and Chief Blair Myhand of the Hendersonville Police Department joined Stetzer in making the announcement. Stetzer commended the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Hendersonville Police Department and the DEA in Asheville for their investigation of the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Kent prosecuted the case.

According to filed court documents and court records, on Aug. 10, 2019, a Henderson County Sheriff’s Office deputy conducted a traffic stop after determining Butler was driving a vehicle with a revoked registration. Over the course of the traffic stop, Butler attempted to flee the scene on foot. Butler was apprehended shortly thereafter by two HCSO deputies, one of whom was deputy Ryan Hendrix. Hendrix was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 10, 2020. Court records show that the deputies recovered from Butler’s person narcotics, including MDMA, methamphetamine, cocaine, and morphine, as well as digital scales and other drug paraphernalia, and over $6,800 in cash from his vehicle. Butler was charged with state drug charges and was released on bond.

On Feb. 16, while Butler was on pretrial release on state offenses, a Hendersonville police officer attempted to stop the vehicle Butler was driving for a traffic violation. Butler did not comply and sped away, in an attempt to evade the police. A vehicle pursuit ensued and, when Butler’s vehicle became stuck on the road, Butler attempted to flee on foot
through the nearby woods. Police officers ultimately located Butler and he was arrested. Over the course of the investigation into that incident, law officers recovered methamphetamine, Xanax, oxycodone, cocaine and fentanyl, which Butler possessed with the intent to distribute. Butler was charged with state charges for trafficking in meth and fleeing to elude arrest.

In May 2020, while Butler was still on pre-trial release on the aforementioned state offenses, law enforcement learned that Butler was continuing to traffic narcotics. On May 12, 2020, law enforcement located Butler driving a vehicle with a suspended license. When the officers attempted to stop Butler’s vehicle, Butler sped off and once again attempted to evade law
enforcement. Butler was ultimately apprehended following a vehicle pursuit during which Butler drove recklessly through a busy residential area. Law enforcement were able to intercept Butler’s vehicle and he was ultimately apprehended. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement recovered nearly half a kilogram of powdered cocaine, fentanyl, oxycodone pills, crack cocaine and other drug paraphernalia.

Butler is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.