Judge issues arrest warrant for Lexington attorney accused of stealing sculptures

gkocher1@herald-leader.comOctober 14, 2013 

A Lexington lawyer accused of possessing two stolen sculptures did not show up for a court hearing Monday, so a judge issued a warrant for the lawyer's arrest.

John Scott Benton, 45, pleaded not guilty last month to charges that he was in possession of two bronze sculptures stolen from a Versailles art gallery. Each sculpture was valued at $25,000.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled Monday before Fayette District Judge Joseph Bouvier. An attorney was present to represent Benton, but when Benton didn't appear for the hearing, Bouvier ordered a warrant for Benton's arrest. Benton has been free on bond since he was charged.

Had Monday's hearing been held, Bouvier would have decided whether there was probable cause to send the case to a grand jury for possible indictment. Or Benton could have opted to waive a hearing and have the case sent directly to a grand jury.

Police recovered the sculptures at Benton's apartment last month after executing a search warrant. Benton was charged with receiving stolen property.

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

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

The woman told police 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.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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