Lexington attorney arrested on charge of possessing stolen sculptures

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com and kward1@herald-leader.comSeptember 24, 2013 

A Lexington lawyer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he was in possession of two bronze sculptures stolen from a Versailles art gallery, Lexington police detective Randall Kloss said.

Police recovered the sculptures — each valued at $25,000 — at the apartment of John Scott Benton, 45, after executing a search warrant Monday, Kloss said. Benton was charged with receiving stolen property.

The thefts were reported by the Heike Pickett Art Gallery in Versailles, Kloss said.

According to an affidavit by Kloss filed in Fayette District Court, a woman contacted Pickett by email and said she knew where the statues were.

The woman told Kloss she had been visiting Benton at his apartment when Benton "stated that he had acquired some new art work."

Benton showed the woman the two 40-inch-tall statues, each of a nude woman, which were being kept in a closet covered by a blanket. When the woman asked how Benton got the sculptures, Benton told her he made two trips to the studio at night in his girlfriend's car and brought them back to the apartment, the affidavit states.

Benton is living at the Hope Center, and his apartment at Lorillard Lofts, where the sculptures were found, is being occupied by his girlfriend, according to the affidavit.

Benton was released Monday from the Fayette County Detention Center, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Taylor. He is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 14.

This isn't the first time Benton has faced charges.

Benton pleaded guilty last year to second-degree wanton endangerment and fourth-degree assault, both misdemeanors.

Police said he tried to hit his girlfriend with his car after an argument in 2011. The car did not hit her, but Benton got out and pointed a gun at the woman before knocking her unconscious, according to a police citation. Benton's sentence of one year on each of the two charges was probated for two years.

In March, he tested positive for marijuana when given a urine test as part of his probation. Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone ordered Benton to spend two weekends in the Fayette County Detention Center for that probation violation.

Then in June, Benton missed an appointment with his probation officer. He told the officer July 1 that he had missed the appointment because "he started smoking marijuana," court records show.

Because of that, Scorsone issued an order Aug. 2 that required Benton to "enter and complete the Hope Center Program on Loudon Avenue."

Benton is licensed to practice law in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Bar Association.

Valarie Honeycutt-Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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