Mayor suspects assault tied to election, not rumored affair

AP News
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Posted: Aug 15, 2015 11:32 AM
Mayor suspects assault tied to election, not rumored affair

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama mayor who was re-elected despite a federal conviction says recovering from an assault outside a barbershop where he works part time and allegations of a sex tape with the suspect's wife won't derail the final push of his campaign for a fifth term.

With just over a week left before municipal elections, Talladega Mayor Larry Barton is sporting bruises on his face, head and elsewhere after being beaten Aug. 8 outside a barber shop in Vestavia Hills, just outside Birmingham.

After being thrust once again into a less than flattering spotlight, Barton, 75, is dismissing notions that a rumored affair caught on camera with the wife of the assault suspect was the root cause of the beating.

The mayor served about three years in prison in the 1990s after being convicted of defrauding the city. Prosecutors said Barton had city officials issue about $5,000 in checks to a fictitious worker for removing tree stumps from city property, but cashed the checks himself.

Benny Green, 71, was arrested and charged with assault in the attack. Green is in the process of a divorce. An attorney who represented him in the case, Stewart Springer, has said Barton was secretly recorded having sex with Green's wife and that he saw the footage himself.

Vestavia Hills police have said Barton was hit multiple times with a baseball bat or a similar object and Green tried fleeing the scene on a bicycle but was stopped by bystanders. Authorities have said the two were longtime friends and Barton said they worked together on a local show he still hosts.

It's unclear if Green has an attorney and calls and emails to numbers and addresses listed for him weren't returned.

Divorce court documents indicate that Green's wife was recorded with a man other than her husband, but didn't identify him. The documents said she and the man were recorded numerous times in the back office of a liquor store the Greens own. Barton said he had an office in the back of the store and worked as bookkeeper.

The secret videos were shot in December 2013 and were presented in February, according to court records.

"If he had a tape for all these years, why didn't he confront me with it?" Barton asked. "He had no reason to beat me up." Barton was subpoenaed in the couple's case but hasn't yet given a deposition.

Barton said given his background, the incident may have been an attempt to smear him before voters cast their ballots roughly 55 miles away from where he was assaulted. Police spokesman Brian Gilham has said he isn't authorized to release additional details about Green's potential motive.

"This is nothing new on elections and me running for office," Barton said. "Every time I run they come out with something to try and beat me."

Barton lost several runoffs for mayor before being elected again in 2011. Seated on a wicker bench at his house on Shady Lane Circle with two black eyes, bruises and cuts throughout his body — Barton said the assault and recovery process won't impact the final week of his campaign. Opponent Jerry Cooper Sr. declined to comment and calls to another candidate, Vann Caldwell, weren't returned.

Septuagenarian sex tape or not, lifelong Talladega resident Nisha Davis, 34, said she thinks uninformed voters helped Barton return to office despite his federal conviction.

"He's been the butt of a lot of jokes around town, I hate to say it," Davis said after explaining how Barton's checkered past and what she considers lackluster development in the city has impacted her decision on which candidate to support. "It's definitely time for some new blood."

Talladega's municipal elections are set for Aug. 25.