- Associated Press - Monday, July 31, 2017

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - A former Marshall University football player pleaded guilty Monday to two battery charges in an attack on two men he saw kissing.

Steward Butler entered the plea to the misdemeanors in Cabell County Circuit Court. His trial was scheduled to start Tuesday.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 25. He faces up to a year in jail on each count. Media outlets report Butler admitted Monday to marijuana use, and Circuit Judge Paul Farrell ordered him to be drug tested weekly.

Butler was accused of punching the men and shouting homophobic slurs after seeing them kissing outdoors in Huntington in April 2015.

In May, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of felony civil rights charges against Butler. Farrell ruled last year that Butler could not be charged with a hate crime because it appeared that state lawmakers intended to leave protections based on sexual orientation out of the law.

The Supreme Court found that the definition of the word “sex” in the state’s hate crime statute was “unambiguous.” The justices said the statute does not address sexual orientation and that lawmakers have rejected every attempt to include sexual orientation since the law was enacted three decades ago.

The high court said there have been at least 26 failed attempts to amend the statute to include sexual orientation.

Butler was a running back at Marshall from 2012 to 2014. His best season was in 2014 when he ran for 798 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

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