For nearly 10 years, Jason Benson has been trying to clear his name connected to a string of alleged crimes he claims he never committed.
The charges involve at least 15 felonies and misdemeanors dating back to 2012 and 2013. Most are related to allegations of beating and stalking former ex-girlfriends in Paulding County.
Since then, he’s pleaded with the judges, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and the FBI to look into claims that the women’s stories were manufactured in exchange for an alleged pay-off.
Earlier in 2021, he got his wish. The Coweta County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case.
"I spent 56 days in jail over being falsely accused of something that never happened,” Benson said in an interview with 11Alive in April. “If there was anything to those charges, they would have taken me to court.”
While the charges were essentially dropped, 11Alive's investigative team, The Reveal, uncovered the district attorney’s decision had nothing to do with the results of a state or federal investigation. Instead, it rested on the women’s decision not to testify after years of waiting for prosecutors to prepare the case for trial.
While Benson maintains his innocence, court records show a pattern of violent behavior and women who feared for their lives.
THE WOMEN COME FORWARD:
In 2012, a woman called 911 after she claimed Benson attacked her inside her Paulding County home.
“My boyfriend, he just beat me up,” the woman said to a 911 operator.
According to the incident report, Benson spit in her face and threw her to the ground. An officer noticed bruises on her right arm, leg, and neck, including an abrasion on her right foot.
“And, that’s why they arrested him. Obviously, from all the marks on me, something happened,” the alleged victim said in an interview with GBI close to a year after the incident.
Less than a year later, a different woman accused Benson of aggravated stalking. She claimed he emailed her nude pictures to her boss.
“Jason sent this email to [her] bosses in an attempt to humiliate and embarrass her,” said Lee Gentry, one of her colleagues, in a 2013 witness statement identified in the case file. Gentry said Benson emailed pictures to multiple colleagues.
“This malicious email was sent after Jason has been locked up three or more times for contacting [her] or showing up at [her] home despite the temporary restraining order that precludes him from doing so,” Gentry said.
Benson admits he emailed pictures of the woman to her boss. He claims he did it because she was texting him the pictures and he wanted to prove she was violating a temporary restraining order she filed against him.
Benson claims the pictures he sent of her were not nude, but he does admit they were inappropriate.
According to a Las Vegas police report, she also accused Benson of beating her in a hotel room in 2013. Both admit to heavy drinking the evening of the incident.
“He kicked me several times in the side point. And I went off the bed and I couldn't breathe,” she said during an interview with GBI. “And then, [Benson] picked me up and threw me on the bed and grabbed me on either side of my head and just was hitting my head against the back of the bed.”
According to a 2013 Paulding County witness statement, a woman named Robin Young once witnessed Benson choking the alleged victim.
“I saw him choking her causing the necklace she was wearing to break into pieces,” Young said.
The alleged victim claims the abuse went on for a year.
“It was a living nightmare,” she told investigators.
Benson denies striking any of the women. He said the only time he touched them was to defend himself after they attacked him first.
"What I am telling you now is that I have never laid a hand on these girls to hurt them. Have I grabbed their hand to stop them from hitting me, yes I have,” Benson said.
Both women who alleged they had been assaulted declined to be interviewed, but there is someone who believed them. He’s Pete Skandalakis, Coweta County’s former district attorney.
“I found their stories to be completely credible. I found the incidents they described to be similar, which it became with kind of an emotional abuse, verbal abuse and then went to physical abuse,” Pete Skandalakis in an interview with The Reveal. “I believed these women. I believe the woman to this day.”
So, why didn’t he take the case to trial? Skandalakis said the decision came down to a combination of limited witness participation and the length of time it took for him and others to prepare it for trial.
CASE SAT FOR YEARS:
Skandalakis was not the first district attorney tasked with prosecuting Benson. It started with Paulding County District Attorney Donald Richard “Dick” Donovan, who obtained the original grand jury indictments in 2013.
According to court documents, Benson and his attorney petitioned a judge and others for the GBI to investigate claims the woman may have accepted a bribe to manufacture their stories. Benson also accused Donovan of participating in a bribe to reduce charges against two people involved in a 2012 shooting incident. Benson was one of the victims.
In response, Donovan recused his office, Skandalakis agreed to take on the case and GBI was asked to investigate.
Skandalakis said it took about a year and a half for him to prepare the case for trial. By then though, the alleged victims told him they didn't want to testify, fearing retaliation from Benson.
He said he couldn’t bring the case to trial without them.
Benson’s case sat in the Skandalakis office for five years. When he retired in January 2018, the case file went stale for about three more years.
This past March, Coweta County’s current district attorney agreed to not prosecute the case, also citing lack of witness participation.
Skandalakis said he regrets not being able to take Benson’s case to trial and believes the justice system failed the women.
“I think so. I think you can look at it that way,” Skandalakis said.
ANOTHER ABUSE ALLEGATION:
As Benson waited for his charges to be dismissed, another woman emerged with a familiar story. According to a 2016 Woodstock Police report, the woman claimed Benson assaulted her inside her apartment.
“I blocked him, he grabbed my arm, twisted my left arm behind my back,” she said to a 911 emergency dispatcher while holding back tears.
Pictures of her injuries in the case file show multiple bruises to her arm and buttocks. Her claims mirrored the other women's accounts: Jason accused her of cheating and then violence erupted.
In 2019, Benson pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. A judge sentenced him to 12 months of probation and fined him $500.
Benson said he never hit the alleged victim. “The only thing I ever did was hold her away from me,” Benson said in a video recorded on a police cruiser dash camera.
Benson acknowledged a trend with the women’s complaints but fiercely believes all of the women’s memories don’t match the reality.
“The biggest way to discredit any male in today’s generation is to make them out to be a woman beater,” Benson said.
This past April, the GBI closed Benson’s case and did not file additional charges against anyone. According to Skandalakis, the investigation found no evidence the women were bribed.
The Reveal is an investigative show exposing inequality, injustice, and ineptitude created by people in power throughout Georgia and across the country.