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He knocked on her trailer door, the young, blond man who had recently become her probation officer. He was there for a routine check on a convicted felon. But Lisa Johnson says what unfolded that day in was far from the norm. If she didn't perform sexual favors, she says he told her, she would be reported for violating her probation. She would be taken from her baby and put behind bars. If she complained, who would believe her? Two years later, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has declared that it believes her. The agency has recommended that the probation officer, Christopher Butts, be charged with sexual battery and other offenses.
Now it's up to state prosecutors to decide whether to pursue the charges. The case would pit a man well regarded in the community against a woman with a track record of dishonesty. Johnson has a long criminal history dominated by fraud, forgery and credit card scams. Butts reed from the state Department of Corrections in May after Sex personals Port St Joe accused of having sex with two other women under his supervision.
He declined to comment about the allegations. Johnson's is a story of sex, power and possible crimes in Port St. Joe, a Panhandle town still trying to recover from scandal. Last year, Gulf County Sheriff Al Harrison was convicted of violating the civil rights of jail inmates by forcing them to perform oral sex on him.
Now comes the case of probation officer Christopher Butts, 29, a handsome man with a wife and young child, known to read the Bible at work. His parents have given shelter to the homeless, alcoholics, unwed mothers and released prisoners in a Christian home called Covenant House.
With a bachelor's degree from Florida State University, Butts worked in counseling positions at private hospitals and psychiatric centers before ing the state Department of Corrections as a probation officer in March He had enormous clout over people in trouble with the law.
On his say-so, Butts' probationers could be put back behind bars. Coats was overseeing the department when allegations surfaced about Butts having sex with two of his probationers. He ordered a preliminary inquiry, informed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and turned the case over to internal investigators at the Department of Corrections. One woman told investigators she wanted to have sex with Butts; the other said she believed Butts would not turn her in for violating her probation if she had sex with him.
Lisa Johnson, who made her complaint after the first two cases surfaced, says she didn't want to have sex with Butts. Her criminal history lists 14 aliases, four Social Security s and two dates of birth. She says she's Sinceher Florida crimes have included grand larceny, grand theft, fraud, forgery, writing bad checks and illegal use of credit cards.
She agreed to cooperate with federal authorities and testify against another defendant. But on May 17,Butts came to her mobile home park for a routine home visit. She let him in and woke up her daughter, then 9 months old, who was taking a nap. The information had to do with the credit card fraud that led to her federal charges.
I would do anything except murder for her," Johnson said.
It happened again at her home on June 24,she said, and in Butts' office on Sept. Each time, she said, her daughter was present. She had been arrested again on charges of forging checks, and another inmate at the jail asked who her probation officer was. The inmate told her about a woman under Butts' supervision who allegedly had sex with him. In May, Butts was notified that he faced suspension or dismissal for conduct unbecoming a public employee and for failing to maintain a professional relationship with clients.
Butts denied having sex with anyone on probation. Five days after he was notified of the misconduct charges, he reed. Around the time of his reation, Johnson came forward with her accusations. Butts said recently that he didn't want to discuss the allegations.
I'm trying to go on, pick things up," he said. He is working for himself, he said. He wouldn't say what kind of work he's doing. Prosecutors now are considering the FDLE's recommendation that Butts be charged with three felony counts of sexual battery under a law concerning coercion by threats of retaliation. In addition, the FDLE recommended that he be charged with three felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts in the presence ofJohnson's daughter.
Despite the FDLE recommendation, Johnson is worried that prosecutors won't move forward because of Butts' standing in the community and her criminal record. She's in the Gulf County Jail now, awaiting trial on charges in connection with a scuffle with police at her home.
Her case has been turned over to the Bay County State Attorney's Office because the prosecutor in Gulf County has worked closely with Butts and did not want the appearance of a conflict, said Alton Paulk, chief assistant state attorney for the judicial circuit. Subscribe Manage my subscription Activate my subscription Log in Log out. Regions Tampa St. Letters to the Editor Submit a Letter.
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