Scott County

Woman found guilty of charges for Kentucky Final Four celebration

Leitha Burton was booked on April 1, 2012 and released on April 3, 2012. | Photo provided by Fayette County jail
Leitha Burton was booked on April 1, 2012 and released on April 3, 2012. | Photo provided by Fayette County jail

A jury found a woman guilty Friday in the only Fayette District Court trial among 91 cases stemming from celebrations during the championship run by the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.

Leitha Burton, 23, was given a total of $500 in fines — $250 for each charge. Burton could have received up to 90 days in jail and a total of $500 in fines.

Burton, who said she recently moved from Georgetown to Cynthiana, was on trial for charges of alcohol intoxication in a public place and second-degree disorderly conduct. She was charged for throwing a beer bottle at Lexington police officers and refusing to leave the area of State Street near the UK campus on March 31, the night that UK beat the University of Louisville.

Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts said he thought all other defendants had pleaded guilty.

After the verdict, Roberts said, "We don't intend to let this kind of conduct occur" when celebrations get out of hand "and people are disruptive and threatening to police."

"Police are right in what they do in those situations and they handle it wonderfully because there was a very small percentage of people arrested," said Roberts.

Public defender Jeremy Kemper, who represented Burton said, "I think the result was the right result, although I wish she could have been convicted of littering instead of disorderly conduct."

Kemper said he was happy his client was staying out of jail. Burton could not reach a plea agreement with prosecutors because they wanted her to spend an extended time in jail. Burton testified that she spent three days in jail after her arrest.

Burton said she wished she had not been convicted, but she was "happy with not getting the jail time."

Assistant Fayette County Attorney Erin Musgrave asked the jury in closing arguments to tell Burton "that her behavior that night was inappropriate."

"We need you to tell her that she was wrong."

Roberts in opening arguments said Burton was intoxicated and threw a bottle at police amid the people who had gathered on State Street. Police were trying to contend with people who were setting fires and who had overturned a vehicle.

Kemper told the jury his client threw a bottle not at a police officer, but on the ground because she was frustrated because police would not let her go to her car.

"What Leitha is guilty of, if anything, is littering," Kemper said in an interview.

Burton testified that she was intoxicated and was frustrated because police kept telling her to "get back" but she did not intend to be disorderly by throwing down a bottle. She said she did not aim the bottle at police, and an officer testified that he was not struck by the bottle she threw.

Police pepper-sprayed Burton because she would not obey their commands to leave the area, according to trial testimony. The pepper ball that struck her in the face will leave her with a lifelong scar, Kemper told the jury.

Several officials testified about Burton's behavior on March 31.

Fayette County Detention Corrections Officer Maria Gaines testified that Burton wouldn't follow directions at the jail. She would not sit down in an open area so she was placed in a holding cell, Gaines said.

Lexington police officers including Jason Rotherman, testified that Burton cursed at them and refused to leave the State Street area despite repeated warnings.

After the verdict, Fayette District Judge T. Bruce Bell told Burton he had looked at Burton's past record and saw she had a drinking problem that she needed to address.

"You've got to get this taken care of. ... This kind of conduct is not acceptable. ... You can't be throwing things. You can't be cursing at the police ..." Bell told Burton. ''My suggestion to you is don't drink."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader