Thomas Banta left a law enforcement position in 2014 but, according to newly released court documents, it didn’t take long for him to find a new gig: recruiting minors into an alleged prostitution ring that may have counted cops and lawmakers as clients.
On May 3, the 67-year-old former Franklin County, Kentucky, constable and his 50-year-old co-worker Hendra “Dre” Valentine were indicted for allegedly running a prostitution ring, kidnapping a minor, and impersonating police officers, with the charges spreading from January 2014 to January 2016.
During that period Banta, who was a constable from 2011 to 2014, was running a private security business that allegedly served as a front for the operation. Valentine was an employee.
Banta entered a not guilty plea three days after the indictment, facing down a mountain of evidence against him in the form of police affidavits and court documents. Valentine has also claimed to be innocent.
According to one search warrant affidavit, one of Banta’s young prostitutes first met him “when she was a cheerleader in the 8th grade and he was a football coach.” She says she called him “Boss” and that a condition of her employment under him was that he “would get free sex with her anytime he wanted it.”
“Banta would tell her when and where to go and she would be paid either by Banta or directly by one of the clients to perform sexual acts,” the affidavit states.
The initial list of clients released after Banta’s arrest did not appear to include any prominent government figures. As LEX 18 reported, initial documents showed that Banta’s clients allegedly included football coaches, a limo driver, a plumber, and a jail employee.
But as LEX 18 noted, the former cheerleader who worked for Banta said she once went to the Capital Plaza Hotel to have sex with a man whom she later spotted on television. She was still a minor at the time.
Banta’s attorney, Guthrie True, who did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment, quickly moved to have the discovery file in the case sealed, delaying the release of further details about Banta’s alleged clientele.
This Monday, as The State Journal reported, Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate denied True’s request, and the discovery file was made public. It didn’t take long for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KYCIR) to learn why Banta may have wanted to keep it behind closed doors.
According to KYCIR, the court documents show that Banta allegedly bragged that his clients were “upscale” men, including state legislators and police officers, who “wanted some excitement on the side.” He allegedly recruited college students and at least one high school student through his security firm, and then threatened them to prevent them from disclosing the ring to police.
In a police interview obtained by KYCIR, one woman said a client of Banta’s wanted her to have sex with a dog for $500. Another said she couldn’t have sex with a client because he was “physically repulsive.”
Banta himself was allegedly violent with at least one of the prostitutes, choking her with a belt, according to an affidavit.
So far, no high-profile client names have been released. Many of the names in the discovery file have been redacted.
On Wednesday, True told the Lexington Herald Leader that he “cannot comment” on the reference to state legislators and police officers in the court documents because he only got them a “short time ago.” On Thursday, he did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Despite the dozens of interviews in the investigation, True has implied that the investigation into Banta is politically motivated, telling LEX 18 that his client’s son, Joe Banta, “was a candidate against the sitting sheriff in a very aggressive primary.”
“He lost by a narrow primary and shortly after the election, this investigation began,” True told the station.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton told The Daily Beast that detectives are currently investigating the alleged prostitution ring. He added that neither he nor Joe Banta, who currently works for him, are personally involved in the investigation. Melton had no comment on the allegations that police officers may have been among the elder Banta’s clientele.
While the investigation continues, Banta is a free man—for the time being, at least. The State Journal reported earlier this month that Banta’s initial bond of $50,000 was reduced to 10 percent, allowing him to be released from jail.
The court deemed him “low-risk.”