A Culpeper jury ordered an ex-town employee in Culpeper County Circuit Court on Monday to pay $5,001 to his former co-worker whose coffee pot he admitted to spiking with his own urine five years ago.
James Carroll Butler, who turns 54 next Sunday, owned up to urinating in Michael Utz’s coffee pot in March 2009 because of “personal ill will and spite toward him.” Before the incident, Butler had worked for the town’s waste water plant for 17 years until his departure in 2009.
According to the jury’s verdict form in this civil matter, it found that Butler “committed battery upon Michael Utz or put him in reasonable fear of receiving bodily harm.”
Court records show, Butler targeted Utz, admitting to Culpeper Town Police Lt. Andrew Terrill that “he was hoping Utz was the person who would get the urine-tainted coffee.”
Utz, a plant mechanic for the town’s environmental services department since 2002, claimed that the urine-laced coffee pot caused him severe emotional distress, asking the court to award him $728,000 ($378,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 punitive damages).
According to his attorney Michael Sharman, Utz is “really, really happy about the victory and he’s glad it’s done.”
Court records also show that Butler urinated into a toilet and scooped the amber-tinted fluid with a soda can before pouring it in Utz’s personal coffee pot.
When Utz went to make a cup of coffee on Monday, March 16, 2009, “he was hit with a strong smell of urine, observing fluid already inside his coffee pot that he had not put in there.”
Utz immediately notified his supervisor Eugene Ronnie Brown, who suggested testing the liquid.
Lab results revealed that the coffee pot contained urine and fecal material. That’s when Brown called a mandatory meeting where no one admitted to pouring urine in the pot. But by Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Butler finally admitted to Brown that he was the coffee-spiking culprit.
Brown then referred Butler to Daniel Boring, who was the interim director of the town’s environmental services, also confessing to Boring what he had done.
In his own words, Butler admitted to his mistakes in a brief letter dated March 20, 2009.
“I done something I am very much ashamed of to a co-worker for [reasons, which are] stress-related [and] things going on in my life on and off the job. I am very much ashamed of my stupid and childlike behavior,” wrote Butler.
According to court records, the jury awarded Utz $1 in compensatory damages and $5,000 toward punitive damages.
In May 2009, a general district court judge also found Butler guilty of criminal misdemeanor assault for altering his co-worker’s coffee.
He was sentenced to a year in jail, before the judge suspended 11 months. Butler was also ordered to serve one year of unsupervised probation and pay $96 in court costs.