Kalama man charged in OR police slaying can aid defense

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ST. HELENS, Ore. (AP) — A young Washington man accused of gunning down the Rainier, Ore., police chief a year ago can aid in his own defense and has been "gaming the system," an Oregon judge said Thursday.

Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove's ruling means the criminal case against 22-year-old Daniel Butts of Kalama, Wash., can proceed.

Butts is accused of shooting Chief Ralph Painter, 55, with Painter's own gun after the chief responded to a report of a suspicious person at a Rainier car stereo shop on Jan. 5, 2011.

Grove listened to expert testimony from mental health professionals and police officers about Butts' behavior before and after the shooting. The hearings were designed to determine whether the defendant is able to assist his lawyers during a trial.

"It is not my intention to determine his mental health as I do not find that his behavior, while most disturbing, (is) other than calculated," the judge said.

The evidence indicated that Butts modified his behavior when he realized he was being observed at the Oregon State Hospital and changed his behavior when doctors told him he was harming his health, the judge said.

All that supports "a finding that the defendant is gaming the system," Grove said.

Butts was not present at Thursday's hearing.

The judge said dates for an arraignment and trial will be set soon. Butts has been indicted on multiple charges, including aggravated murder.

Outside the courtroom, the defendant's father, Mikel Butts, criticized the judge's ruling, saying his son "needs help." The elder Butts said Painter "pushed my son over the edge" in their confrontation at the stereo shop. He called the chief "a bully with a badge."

Butts' lawyers and a private psychiatrist have said he is mentally ill. They said he began deteriorating before the shooting and exhibited several unusual behaviors while in custody, including standing for hours in the same position and refusing to speak for several months.

Prosecutors and a state doctor contend Butts was faking or exaggerating symptoms to avoid trial.

Grove said staff at the Columbia County Jail recently used a stun gun to subdue Butts due to disruptive and fighting behavior. The judge also said Butts had stabbed himself in the face and neck with a pencil.

"The judge rendered a good decision based on all the facts and what we've seen over the past year," Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said. "I think we're ready for trial."