Sajjaad J. Butler request to withdraw guilty plea to be considered in February

·3 min read

NEW PHILADELPHIA — A 19-year-old Canton man serving a potential life sentence for killing a New Philadelphia man will have his request to withdraw his guilty plea considered in February.

Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Ernest held a status hearing Friday on the request from Sajjaad J. Butler, who previously pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Gaven J. Carlisle, 22, on March 5 during a marijuana deal that turned into a robbery.

More: Sajjaad J. Butler pleads guilty to murder; prosecutor recommends 30 years to life

More: Sajjaad J. Butler sentenced to 30 years to life for killing Gaven J. Carlisle

More: Sajjaad J. Butler asks to withdraw guilty plea in Gaven J. Carlisle murder

In a one-paragraph letter sent to the court Nov. 12, Butler gave several reasons why he believes he should be able to retract his plea:

• He felt pressured by his lawyers, Mark Perlaky and Anthony Koukoutas, to take the first offer of a negotiated plea deal.

• Defense attorneys did not give him a "fair chance" to receive a different offer.

• His attorneys were ineffective because they "failed to address certain motions that I needed filed prior to sentencing."

• His Sixth Amendment rights were violated because his lawyers failed to perform in a "reasonably competent manner."

At Friday's hearing, Ernest said Butler and the court would be best served if Butler were represented by an attorney. With the defendant's consent, he appointed Jacob Will of Canton.

The hearing began with Ernest asking Butler whether he had written the one-paragraph unsigned letter that asked the judge to let him abandon his plea. Butler said he had.

The judge gave Will a month to review documents in the murder case and confer with his client before the prosecution and defense return to court Feb. 22 for further consideration of Butler's motion.

County Prosecutor Ryan Styer is opposing Butler's request. In a two-page entry filed Nov. 19, Styer wrote that a defendant may withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing only if he can show "manifest injustice."

"In general, manifest injustice relates to a fundamental flaw in the proceedings that results in a miscarriage of justice or is inconsistent with the demands of due process," Styer wrote, citing case law. He wrote that a post-sentence motion to withdraw a guilty plea is allowable only in extraordinary cases, and that Butler made only "very vague assertions."

Ernest previously sentenced Butler to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Butler pleaded guilty Sept. 21 to aggravated murder, murder and two counts of aggravated robbery. Each charge carried a firearm specification.

Butler appeared at Friday's hearing by video link from the Stark County jail. He has pleaded not guilty in Stark County to four counts of felonious assault and other felony charges. He is accused of firing shots into the air and at a vehicle with four young women in April 2020 in Canton.

A 17-year-old girl was injured during the incident.

Butler was free on bond in the Stark case when he shot Carlisle in New Philadelphia.

More: Canton killer who fatally shot Tuscarawas County man headed to trial again

Butler has pleaded not guilty to an assault charge lodged against him for allegedly assaulting a corrections officer at the Tuscarawas County jail in July.

This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Judge appoints lawyer to consider defendant's motion to withdrawn plea

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