WILKES-BARRE — On her way out of the Luzerne County Courthouse on Friday, a shackled Rebecca Ann Butler proclaimed her innocence.
Butler, 42, of Danville, was convicted by a jury of taking two girls, ages 5 and 8, to the State Correctional Institution at Retreat in Newport Township knowing they were going to be allegedly molested by Andre Vancliff, an inmate she had befriended who is serving a life sentence for a murder in Philadelphia.
State police at Shickshinny believe Butler had taken the girls to visit Vancliff from May 2010 to September 2012.
Butler was in court Friday when Judge Michael T. Vough said she will spend 3 1/2 to 10 years in state prison on two counts each of endangering the welfare of children and criminal conspiracy to corrupt minors. She was convicted of the charges after a two day trial in February.
“I still maintain my innocence. I hope someday I can prove that,” Butler told reporters as she was escorted by sheriff deputies from the courthouse.
In court, Butler’s tone was completely different.
“I do realize the significance of what happened,” she said weeping to Vough. “I do know what my actions have caused. I put the children in danger. I didn’t know this man was in for life. I was befriended. I know full well the pain and suffering I caused them.”
Assistant District Attorney Jenny Roberts said Butler, whose profession was a nurse, continued to take the girls to the prison, knowing Vancliff wanted to molest them.
“His hands were all over the girls,” Roberts said.
Butler’s attorney, Clyde Kevin Middleton of Bloomsburg, said the state prison is partially to blame due to the design of the visitation room. Middleton said the visitation room is heavily monitored with a play area for children, and there must have been a lapse in security for the molestation to occur.
Vough called Butler’s statements, “A bitter pill to swallow.”
“It is amazing to me for someone to do that,” Vough told Butler. “It’s the worst behavior I have ever seen. It is unforgivable.”
Vancliff, 48, on April 11 was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea on two counts each of indecent assault and criminal conspiracy to corrupt minors, and a single count of corruption of minors. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Monday.