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Sex offender was involved in film project about Ashland assaults

Mark Butterfield filmed at 'Take Back the Night'
 Posted: 2:00 AM February 18, 2010

A videographer who was involved in making a film about a string of sexual assault cases in Ashland this winter is himself a convicted sex offender.

Mark Butterfield, 49, shot footage last month at a "Take Back the Night" rally in downtown Ashland and a gathering in an alley where a woman told police she was raped by a stranger.

In 2004, Butterfield pleaded guilty to two counts of encouraging child sexual abuse, stemming from a collection of child pornography videos his then-wife had discovered in their Ashland home, according to court documents and police reports. Following his conviction later that year, he served 20 days in jail and two years of probation.

Butterfield, who agreed to an interview Tuesday but offered limited comments, said his background "absolutely did not" have anything to do with his involvement in the film project.

"I was just trying to do something good for my community," he said.

Videographer Mary O'Neal, who co-organized the film project with Butterfield, said she was stunned when she found out last week he was a convicted sex offender.

"It's just still so fresh and shocking to me," she said. "If you're an ex-abuser, you don't put yourself in a situation where you're interviewing people on the topic."

On Friday, O'Neal told Butterfield, who lives in Talent, he could no longer be involved in the film project.

The filmmakers, who became friends after meeting at the Ashland Independent Film Festival last year, originally had planned to make a short film on Ashland's response to the sexual assaults and enter it in the festival.

Now, the fate of the film is unknown, O'Neal said.

Butterfield, who has created short films on past community events, such as a "Vagina Monologues" performance by Southern Oregon University students, said the sexual assaults project developed after he and O'Neal decided to hold two events in locations connected to the assaults.

"This originated as a short film project with the 'Take Back the Night' event that was a community gathering," he said. "Mary's idea was to turn it into a bigger thing with the 'Take Back the Alley' and 'Take Back Clear Creek Drive,' so that kept me involved."

Butterfield did not attend the "Take Back Clear Creek Drive" event Saturday, the day after O'Neal had told him he could no longer work on the project.

"I get that she's upset," Butterfield said.

O'Neal found out about Butterfield's past via the social networking Web site Facebook. Using Facebook, a friend of O'Neal's passed on information about the "Take Back Clear Creek Drive" event to Bill Francis, an attorney in Medford who had represented Butterfield's former wife, Ashland singer Karen Lovely, in a custody dispute.

Francis knew Butterfield was a convicted sex offender and was concerned about his involvement in the project.

Francis met with O'Neal Friday and gave her details regarding Butterfield's conviction.

Butterfield declined to comment further on his motive for getting involved in the project, but said he hopes O'Neal will continue working on the film without him.

"I want this project to succeed," he said.

O'Neal said she "would love to" continue with the project alone.

"I'm hoping that this won't deter me from continuing to raise awareness around this issue," she said.

Police are still investigating the string of sexual assaults that occurred in Ashland in December and January.

"We're still following leads and waiting for evidence to come back from the crime labs," said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness.

The Butterfield incident underscores one of the points O'Neal was trying to make in the short film, she said.

"It brings to light the fact that we don't know what a sex offender looks like," she said. "We do have to be aware."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.


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