July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Michael Butts pleads not guilty to theft in youth football case

MEDINA — A former youth football coach pleaded not guilty Monday to charges alleging he stole money from the defunct Medina Bees Youth Football, a nonprofit organization.

Michael T. Butts, 47, of 966 Guilford Blvd., pleaded not guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a second-degree felony; grand theft, a fourth-degree felony, and forgery, a fifth-degree felony.

Michael T. Butts, 47, of Medina, appears Monday before Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier. Butts pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he stole money from a youth football program he used to run and coach. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MICHELLE SPREHE)

Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier found Butts indigent and appointed attorney Paul Grant to defend him.

Butts was a coach and director of the league from 2002 to May 2011, when an investigation into the organization’s finances and missing funds began after concerned parents brought the matter to the attention of the Medina police.

Butts and his attorney declined to comment Monday.

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter, who is prosecuting the case, said it was too soon to comment.

“The indictment alleges Butts stole between $7,500 and $150,000 from the youth program which he ran for years,” Baxter said in a prepared statement following Butts’ arrest Thursday. “Our work continues as additional information is being evaluated. I want to commend the Medina police and the state of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for their diligent pursuit of this investigation.”

In May 2011, Butts told The Gazette he acknowledged $53,000 in debt to food, equipment and fundraising businesses that supplied the league.

Two lawsuits were filed against the league in 2011, in addition to other active civil suits filed in 2009 and 2010.

The league was dropped from the Northeast Ohio Youth Football Conference in May, and the financial and organizational issues prompted many parents to seek other area leagues for their children, such as Medina Youth Football League and Medina Gridiron Football League, neither of which is affiliated with Medina Bees Youth Football.

A pretrial date for Butts was set for May 3 and his trial for May 7.

Contact Michelle Sprehe at (330) 721-4048 or msprehe@medina-gazette.com.