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No Charges in Display of Toy to 13-Year-Old Legislative Page

October 7, 1993

ATLANTA (AP) _ The inability of a teen-age legislative page to identify the lawmaker who showed him a fake penis makes it impossible to bring charges, the state attorney general said Wednesday.

State Rep. Jimmy Benefield acknowledged taking the toy to the House floor on March 23, but said he never knowingly showed it to Jason Bunkley, who was then 13. The toy popped up when an apron covering it was raised.

Attorney General Michael Bowers said a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report showed that ″in all likelihood″ Benefield displayed the toy to the child, but the boy wasn’t sure.

Bowers said he has no explanation for the boy’s inability to identify the individual.

″What to do with Rep. Jimmy Benefield now is clearly up to the House,″ Bowers said.

Jason’s mother reported the incident to House leaders, but there was no action until she took it to state prosecutors. The House Ethics Committee voted in August to conduct its own investigation but postponed further action pending Bowers’ decision whether to prosecute.

Rep. Tommy Chambless, the committee’s chairman, scheduled an Oct. 14 meeting for the committee to decide if it would take additional steps.

Jason said a legislator summoned him to his seat, directed his attention to the apron, then displayed the fake penis.

Three other pages also saw the toy, including a 15-year-old girl who named Benefield and an 11-year-old boy who described a man who looked like Benefield, according to the GBI report. But neither was directly shown the toy and Bowers said that without Jason’s testimony, prosecution would be in vain.

″We are obviously disappointed,″ said Jay Sadd, an attorney representing Jason. Displaying sexually explicit material to minors in Georgia is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Bowers, who ordered the GBI to look into the case in May, said the report ″strongly supports the proposition that Mr. Benefield, alone, had the device on the floor ... and, in all likelihood, displayed it to Jason Bunkley, although Jason cannot so identify him.″

Benefield, 52, who is serving his ninth term in the Legislature, identified himself Aug. 3 as the lawmaker who took the toy to the House floor. The disclosure came four days after The Associated Press said a state investigation was under way.

Benefield said he got the gift as a gag from a lobbyist. He said he inadvertently took it to the House floor, and showed it to colleagues who asked him what it was.

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