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Man who ordered ND killing sentenced to 20 years


Associated Press

FARGO — A drug dealer accused of orchestrating a brutal attack in which a man was kidnapped in western North Dakota and left for dead in eastern Montana was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

Jeffrey Butler, also known as Pops, pleaded guilty in April to kidnapping and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Authorities said he ordered others to kill Robert Osterhout, who survived the August 2012 assault that began in Williston, in the heart of the Oil Patch.

Court documents show that Osterhout was beaten with brass knuckles, cut with a razor blade, kicked, strangled and shocked with a stun gun. He was then tied up, placed in the trunk of a car and transported to Montana, where he briefly escaped and was beaten up again and left in a remote area.

Osterhout eventually made it to a residence near Culbertson, Mont., where someone called authorities. Osterhout was hospitalized with numerous bruises, cuts, broken ribs and a broken collarbone.

“I've been working in the federal criminal justice system for more than 20 years and it is one of the most violent assaults and kidnappings I've ever seen,” U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said Friday after Butler's sentencing.

A spokesman for the federal public defender's office in the Dakotas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland followed the recommendation of prosecutors at Friday's hearing in Bismarck by sentencing Butler to 20 years.

Four other people were convicted in the case and four have been sentenced. Tyler White was sentenced in a separate hearing Friday to 13 years and nine month in prison. Nicholas Woodford was sentenced to 15 years and James Odneal received 12 years. Zachary Mills is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 4.

Prosecutors said earlier that Butler was part of an organized drug ring that used violence to keep other gang members from talking with authorities. Osterhout was blamed for talking to police before he was assaulted, investigators said.

Another man whom prosecutors tied to the gang, Brian Dahl, pleaded guilty earlier this week to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and brandishing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. He faces life in prison without parole and a mandatory minimum sentence of 17 years in prison.

Officials from seven federal agencies have spent the last several days touring the Oil Patch as part of a law enforcement partnership known as Project Safe Bakken. FBI Special Agent Chris Warrener said it's important for federal agents to see what other law enforcement officials are dealing with.

“I think for us, what it is, is that we need to get a handle on the scope of the problem,” Warrener said.