A senior citizen reportedly attacked Talladega’s 75-year-old mayor with a baseball bat Saturday—an early bird beating that sent both men to the hospital and that one local attorney claims is revenge over a sex tape.
Mayor Larry Barton was ready to start his 8 a.m. shift at an Alabama barbershop when he noticed a man in a trench coat waiting for him. Barton said the attacker slugged him in the face when he tried exiting his car.
“He told me he had to kill me,” Barton told AL.com from the hospital, where he was being treated for facial injuries Sunday.
During the struggle, Barton said he pulled the hood off the suspect to reveal the man’s identity. The mayor has fingered the suspect as 71-year-old Benny Green—a friend turned foe and former cohost on Barton’s public access television show, In the Interest of the People.
“Ain’t no doubt about it,” Barton added. “If I hadn’t kicked him twice in the balls I’d be dead. If he had been able to get me out of the car it would have been over.”
Police would not identify the suspect, pending charges. Lieutenant Brian Gilham told the Associated Press that he expected felony charges to be filed Monday. But the cop offered a clue to one Alabama reporter: The assault was sparked over “domestic issues.”
Meanwhile, Stewart Springer, a former attorney for Green, said the mayor got what he deserved for supposedly betraying his longtime friend. He told The Daily Beast that Barton was likely attacked because he allegedly bedded Green’s wife around the time the couple filed for divorce in 2013. (A message left at Barton’s home was not returned. Green’s ex-wife declined to comment, and his divorce attorney could not be reached.)
Barton and his buddy’s spouse—who currently serves as a giggly cohost on the mayor’s TV show—were allegedly caught fornicating on camera in Green’s liquor store, Springer said.
“This idiot goes and sleeps with his wife,” Springer told The Daily Beast. “These are not young people having sex. I would get it if they were 20 or 30 [years old] with hormones raging. These folks are 70 and knocking it out.”
“It gives me hope for the future,” Springer added.
Springer said well-off adversaries of the mayor were plotting to raise funds for Green’s legal defense as the news of his arrest spread Sunday afternoon.
“I was glad [Green] attacked him,” Springer told The Daily Beast. “I gotta be careful what I say as a lawyer. From a personal standpoint, I wish he'd done it earlier. You take retribution on them. It’s just the way you do stuff here [in the South]. We like it that way.”
In May, Barton and his wife, Mary, were subpoenaed to testify in Green’s divorce proceedings, Springer said.
The mayor is no stranger to controversial headlines. In 1994, during his third term, Barton was convicted of fraud and 26 counts of money laundering for cashing $5,900 in city checks made out to a bogus tree-stump specialist.
He was released from federal prison three years later. He lost runoff elections in 1999 and 2003 but was reelected in 2011, AL.com reported.
“One question has nagged Alabama for years,” Alabama Media Group columnist John Archibald wrote in July. “How, in the name of all that is holy, could the mayor of Talladega defraud the city he served, go to prison and then be re-elected by that same city?”
The profile delves into a day at the barbershop, where Barton spends time fielding calls from voters in the city of 16,000. Indeed, the mayor’s cellphone number is listed on Talladega’s website.
“An elected official needs to be accessible, and if you don’t want phone calls, then get out of the public office,” Barton said. “The phone call might not be important to me. But it’s important to the person calling. And you need to respond to it.”
The mayor also brings citizens on his one-hour talk show, which once featured graphic footage of his gallbladder surgery. “Everybody says, ‘We knew you had a lot of gall,’” Barton said in the 2012 episode. “Hopefully having the surgery to take it out may have calmed me down a little bit. Some will say it did. Some says it didn’t.”
One friend of the mayor, who requested anonymity, hoped any charges against the alleged attacker would be upgraded to attempted murder.
The friend told The Daily Beast that Barton “will tell it like it is” when he’s released from the hospital. “You know the mayor, he never holds anything back.”