UPDATE: Bennett has released a statement to Rolling Stone denying the rape charge and calling the situation a “case of drunken misjudgment.” Read the full statement below.
Scott Bennett, a longtime (and now former) member of Brian Wilson‘s band and a close collaborator of the Beach Boys singer, was found guilty of rape by instrumentation and sexual battery on April 29th following a weeklong trial in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bennett’s sentencing will take place June 14th; the jury has already recommended a five-year prison sentence for the musician, who is currently being held without bond at the Rogers County Jail, Tulsaworld reports.
Bennett’s conviction stems from an incident that took place December 5th, 2014 at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino just hours after Wilson and his band performed at the venue. Surveillance video shown during the trial shows a man purported to be Bennett with the 21-year-old female victim. First, he was shown preventing her from exiting an elevator they were both riding in, and then video captured Bennett sexually assaulting the victim in a hallway on the hotel’s 12th floor. The two then went to Bennett’s hotel room before emerging 35 minutes later.
The next morning, after the woman was found disheveled on the hotel’s seventh floor – where Bennett left her like “a sack of trash,” the prosecutor told the jury – she told police that she had no recollection of the night’s incident. Investigators later recovered the woman’s underwear from Bennett’s room, and an exam uncovered his DNA on her body.
“It is clear from watching the video that the victim is extreamly [sic] intoxicated and is unaware of her surroundings,” a Catoosa, Oklahoma police officer wrote in the affidavit. “The subject however appears to be in complete control of his faculties.”
During the trial, Bennett’s lawyer Shannon McMurray argued that the encounter was a result of “two drunk people running into each other.” “Now one person’s a convicted sex offender,” McMurray told Tulsaworld. The attorney promised to appeal both convictions and that Bennett maintains his innocence despite the verdict.
An administrator of Wilson’s official message board posted a statement on behalf of the singer, “What has happened between my former keyboard player Scott Bennett and the Rogers County District Court in Claremont, OK is a matter between them. I have no further comment.” When reached for comment, a rep for Wilson declined to comment further.
“Scott Bennett will appeal his April 29th, 2016 conviction in a Rogers County court based on issues to include but not limited to errors made by the SANE nurse in collecting the DNA evidence, the exclusion and inclusion by the Court of certain evidence as well as a botched and one sided investigation,” McMurray tells Rolling Stone.
“Mr. Bennett did not have sexual intercourse, let alone rape the woman who brought charges. This is a case of drunken misjudgment, that led to kissing and fondling in the lobby of a hotel,” McMurray adds. “The investigator admitted to leaving critical statements supporting Mr. Bennett’s innocence out of his report, including but certainly not limited to Mr. Bennett going to get help for the woman, leaving her briefly in the 7th floor hallway where she couldn’t remember her room number, and going in search of security. Mr. Bennett cooperated entirely with investigators, waived all rights, but was not asked to take a blood alcohol test, which would have provided the jury crucial evidence of his level of intoxication.”
Bennett was a longtime multi-instrumentalist in Wilson’s backing band, first serving as guitarist on Wilson’s 1998 solo LP Imagination and subsequently appearing on each of the Beach Boy’s albums up until 2015’s No Pier Pressure; Bennett is listed as co-writer on that album’s Golden Globe-nominated “One Kind of Love.” Bennett also won a Grammy for his work on 2004’s Brian Wilson Presents Smile and co-wrote and co-produced Wilson’s 2008 LP That Lucky Old Sun.
“I met Brian in Chicago,” Bennett told The North Shore Weekend in 2013. “He just wanted to get away from L.A., so he’d bought a house in St. Charles, where he’d built a state of the art studio in the basement. His producer had me play guitar on two cuts for his 1998 album, Imagination. Once Brian lived through one winter in Chicago, he said: ‘It’s time to get back to the sun.'”
Bennett, who Wilson once called “the most talented musician I’ve ever met,” then accompanied Wilson back to southern California, where he became a steady member of the Beach Boys genius’ backing band, which included a performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards alongside Maroon 5 and the Beach Boys.
Following the December 2014 assault, Bennett remained a member of Wilson’s touring unit before being arraigned on the charges. However, he was not involved in the singer’s current trek celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds.