Authorities say the conviction of a 35-year-old man last week for battery against his mother and two police officers is proof that the legal system works.
Jesse Carl Ray Benton, 35, of Harrison was convicted in Boone County Circuit Court and the officers who arrested him are thankful he will be off the streets for a while.
The case stemmed from a June 24, 2018, incident in which officers were dispatched to a residence on South Sycamore about 1:40 that morning.
Officers responded and made contact with Benton and his mother, Virginia Benton, who was 65 at the time.
Officers found that numerous items had been broken inside the residence. Virginia Benton said her son threw her to the floor and slammed a door against her foot. She had scratches and other abrasions on her body.
As officers were talking to Benton, they noticed a large knife in a bedroom. Benton was told he was under arrest for domestic battery, at which time he ran toward the bedroom, an arrest affidavit said. Officers say he also took off all his clothes in an apparent attempt to prove he had no weapons on him.
Ptl. John Morgan and Ptl. Ryan Guffey tried to block Benton from the bedroom as he was fighting with officers.
As Morgan was attempting to subdue Benton, the suspect clawed at Morgan’s face as Morgan punched him in the head to stop the attack. Benton was also able to take control of the K-9 leash Morgan carried and tried to strangle the officer with it.
Morgan received a gouge mark in his face near the eye and suffered a corneal abrasion after a contact lens was ripped from his eye.
Guffey was kicked in the face while he was trying to secure Benton’s feet and was unconscious for a short time, resulting in a broken nose, a fracture of the orbital floor structure and maxillary sinus fracture. He had to undergo reconstructive surgery.
Guffey came to again and helped subdue Benton, but he continued to struggle. Cpl. Greg Siemiller rushed Guffey from the room because he was bleeding profusely from the face, the affidavit said.
The officers said Benton was extremely drunk at the time of the incident.
Guffey, Morgan and Virginia Benton were all take to North Arkansas Regional Medical Center and admitted for treatment.
Benton was taken to the Boone County Jail for incarceration and has been held there since June 24 with bond set at $500,000. He was taken to jury trial last week.
Authorities say the jury was out for less than 15 minutes before returning to convict Benton of first-degree battery on Guffey, second-degree battery on Morgan and Virginia Benton, and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
The jury sentenced him to seven years in prison on each of the second-degree battery counts, and 17 years on the first-degree battery count. He was also sentenced to one year in the Boone County Jail for resisting arrest.
But the jury also recommended that Benton be forced to serve the 17 years of the sentence, then the seven-year sentences concurrently.
Guffey explained that a person who has been convicted of a violent offense in the past must serve 100% of a sentence for a subsequent offense. Siemiller said Benton had been involved in other domestic incidents in the past, and Guffey added that Benton had also been convicted of residential burglary, which the state considers a violent crime.
As such, Benton must serve all 17 years of the first-degree battery conviction before he could even be considered for parole.
“Is it wrong to say happy? Guffey asked. “It’s not just for me. It’s for Officer Morgan and [Benton’s] mother, especially. I am more glad that something happened for his mother than myself.”
He continued that there are often times when domestic disturbances lead to little punishment in court, but the prosecutor’s office followed through on this case and saw that justice was served.
David Ethredge, prosecuting attorney in the 14th Judicial Circuit, said the policy in his office is that anyone who harms a law enforcement officer must be held to the full extent of the law.
“I have told my people those are cases we will pursue aggressively,” Ethredge said.
When people are in trouble, they want the police to help. In this case, officers arrived to find a beaten 65-year-old woman outside her residence and the officers who responded were there to protect her.
They went in the residence and tried to take Benton into custody, but he defied lawful commands. Ethredge said police officers deserve the right to go home at the end of their shifts without being hurt.
“We want to make sure that happens any way we can,” he added.
Records show he was still being held Monday in the Boone County Jail.
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This photo shows injuries Harrison Police Pt. Ryan Guffey sustained in the arrest of Jesse Benton, while the photo below shows Ptl. John Morgan’s injuries.