Boxer sentenced to nearly 30 years for killing

Updated: April 6, 2006, 1:05 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Boxer James Butler Jr., who fought under the moniker "The Harlem Hammer," was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 30 years in prison for the death of sports journalist Sam Kellerman.

Butler will also pay $17,853 in funeral expenses to Kellerman's family, $10,000 to the state's victim restitution fund and $11,882 to the owner of the victim's apartment, which was left torched and blood-soaked after the killing, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Kellerman's body was found in his Hollywood apartment on Oct. 17, 2004, near a hammer.

The 33-year-old boxer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and arson as jury selection was set to begin in his trial on March 27.

Butler and Kellerman, the 29-year-old younger brother of New York-based boxing expert and ESPN Radio show host Max Kellerman, had been friends and the boxer had been staying at the freelance writer's apartment, police said.

Prosecutors believe the attack came as Butler was having a tough time reviving his career, and was depressed about a souring relationship with his girlfriend, who was the mother of his child, Robison said.

"It's possible Mr. Kellerman asked him to move out or there was a disagreement over how long he could stay with him and it resulted in him picking up a hammer," she said. "The judge called it 'a slaughter.'"

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor reduced the sentence of 29 years and four months by 613 days to account for time Butler spent in custody since four days after the killing, said Superior Court spokeswoman Pat Kelly.

Butler has a pro record of 20-5-0, with 12 wins by knockout. He is best known for sucker-punching opponent Richard Grant in November 2001 after losing a charity bout in New York.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press