Man accused of murder pleads guilty to reduced charge

Monday, July 14, 2014 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 7:12 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

*UPDATE: This story has been updated to include information regarding Samuel Butler's sentencing hearing

COLUMBIA — A man who was previously charged with second-degree murder in connection with drug-related homicide last summer, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Monday.

The charges of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action against Samuel Butler were amended to the lesser charge of attempted distribution of controlled substances, Butler's attorney Stan Clay confirmed. Butler pleaded guilty to the charge during a plea hearing at the 13th Circuit Court for Boone County.

The attempted distribution charge carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 15, Clay said. The judge, however, could recommend probation instead.*

The prosecution is asking for a 10-year sentence and opposes probation, Clay said. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 2.

Butler, 27, was charged in connection with the drug-related killing of Anthony Unger. He previously pleaded not guilty to the charges in December, according to court documents.

Unger had traveled to Columbia on June 23, 2013 to sell a half-pound of marijuana for $1,400 to Butler, according to previous Missourian reporting. During the drug deal, a man later identified as Domionte Cheatum pulled a handgun and demanded Unger give him the marijuana, and then shot him several times, according to court documents.

Cheatum was convicted on second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action, the same as Butler's previous charges, on June 12. Although Butler is not believed to have shot Unger, according to a Missouri statute, a person can be charged with second-degree murder if that person is knowingly responsible for someone's death, or if another person is killed during a felony, or an attempted felony.

Police arrested Butler on June 24, 2013, and set his bond at $1 million in cash. He's serving a 5-year sentence for second-degree burglary in the Jefferson City Department of Corrections, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections website.

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