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Arrest warrant signed for Baton Rouge teacher accused of raping student on campus

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BATON ROUGE - A now-fired Istrouma High School health teacher and track coach who, until last week, was also a reserve deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office has a warrant for his arrest after being accused of sexually assaulting a student in a closet near the school's gymnasium.

The East Baton Rouge School System told WBRZ that Johnnie Butler, 41, was terminated from his teaching job and coaching position Wednesday, a day after The Investigative Unit first reported on the allegations. Butler had been on paid leave since the accusations surfaced last week.

The sheriff's office told WBRZ on Tuesday that Butler had already been fired from his post as a reserve deputy.

The victim's father said in an interview with WBRZ on Tuesday that Butler pushed his daughter into a closet off a gymnasium and raped the young woman. 

"He forced himself up on her. He's a big guy," the father said.

Surveillance video reviewed by a sheriff's department investigator matched the victim's description of when and where the assault occurred, an affidavit said. A text message from Butler to the woman matched up with what the video showed, it said.

After being read his rights against self-incrimination, Butler denied having any sexual contact with the woman. 

"The accused was read text messages that were sent from his phone number, which he stated he did not recall sending," the affidavit said. Eventually, the detective said, Butler acknowledged that, before the interrogation, he deleted from his phone text messages he had exchanged with the woman.

Up to that time, a detective said, no one had told Butler who the investigation involved.

"Immediately after viewing the messages, the accused advised that he no longer wished to answer questions and wanted a lawyer," the affidavit said.

Investigators had been summoned after the young woman went to Baton Rouge General Hospital, where the staff administered a rape kit. The victim told deputies she'd been in touch with Butler over the phone for weeks prior to the assault, according to arrest documents. She said he arranged a meeting with her on campus, and — after she showed up — he began kissing her and pushed her into a closet where the rape happened.

The accusations announced Wednesday were third-degree rape plus a violation of a law that prohibits sexual contact between an educator and a student. That law prohibits sexual intercourse with a person who is older than 17 and younger than 21, and where there is an age difference of greater than four years.

A lawyer for Butler had said Tuesday that the young woman had exchanged text messages with the teacher but that her father had not seen them. When asked whether the text messages would absolve Butler, attorney John McLindon did not respond.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Butler does not appear to have been booked, according to jail records.

After speaking with WBRZ, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System issued a terse statement later Wednesday about Butler's status: "EBRPSS has terminated the employment of Istrouma High School teacher and coach Johnnie Butler."

At the time of his firing, Butler made $49,000 annually, school district records show. He began working for the district in 2016, as a truancy officer, and became a physical education/health teacher and coach in 2021. 

While Istrouma High School is inside the Baton Rouge city limits, the sheriff's department handled the investigation because it has resource officers assigned to the parish's upper-level schools.

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