JB Benn is a magician who is being accused by his ex-girlfriend, Law & Order: SVU actress Diane Neal, of stalking her and of assault, according to a profile by the Daily Beast. In Neal’s litigation against Benn, she says he was a con artist who abused her and tried to ruin her career.
She also says in the complaint Benn defrauded her of money, harmed her pets and sexually assaulted her. Neal maintains that Benn slit her poodle’s throat and “bragged that he ‘bashed her cat’s brains in.'” Benn has replied to these charges in an affidavit, saying they are completely false, part of a vendetta against him because of her anger over their “bad breakup.”
Neal has filed two civil lawsuits against Benn, accusing him of charges ranging from sexual battery and assault to identity theft and fraud. Benn was arrested for stalking her in April 2019 but recently pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct. Benn’s attorney, A.J. Iuele, told the Daily Beast that Neal’s “horrible accusations” resulted in what is “akin to a parking ticket.”
UPDATE 11/21: TMZ has a recording that Benn claims is from a fight between he and Neal in Mach 2018. On the recording, a woman can be heard yelling, “You are the least fun person I have ever met. You don’t think it’s about connections because you refuse to be connected with anybody, even me! Which is why I am going to punish you with death and kill your f*cking dog.”
Here’s everything you need to know about Benn.
1. He’s a Close-Up Magician
According to Benn’s website, he’s a close-up magician, i.e. someone who performs sleight of hand magic, like changing a dollar into a euro or changing the hands on your watch to match the numbers on a card you chose at random from a deck.
“Preferring to let the quality of his craft be its own hallmark, JB has chosen the subtle path of artistry and illusion over flash and hype. … “You may puzzle over what he does, you may even think you’ve figured it out, but the beauty of it is, you never will,” reads the site.
The native New Yorker says that he got his start at the age of 16 when he picked a random restaurant in Gramercy Park to perform coin and card tricks in, and ended up doing magic for The Cars’ frontman Ric Ocasek and his wife, model Paulina Porizkova. A few years later, he was performing at corporate dinners and private parties.
2. Benn and Neal Met at a Fundraiser
Neal tells the Daily Beast that they met in late 2013 at a fundraiser for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance, which is an organization that works to bring “drinkable, fishable, swimmable water everywhere.”
That night, the booked auctioneer didn’t show up, so Kennedy asked Neal if she could step in and take bids from the celebrities in attendance — which included those pictured above, Miranda Lambert, Cheryl Hines, and Jason Alexander. After the auction, Benn approached Neal and asked her out. Within a couple of months, the two were practically living together in Neal’s New Jersey home.
But, according to Neal, the relationship quickly soured and devolved into what she is claiming in her lawsuit against him — that he “defrauded her of millions” and “violently inflicted emotional distress” on her via “a campaign of isolation, terror and (physical and sexual) assault, and destroyed her reputation by doing so.” It has been part of a two-year court battle.
3. Benn Starred on a Travel Channel Series
In 2013, Benn starred on Magic Man, a series for the Travel Channel that followed him around the world as he performed illusions and interactive magic for tourists and locals around the world. A preview video shows him performing for stunned onlookers on the streets of various cities. Tricks include floating a man’s ring in midair and twisting a woman’s cell phone to make it look as though one half is facing the wrong way.
Benn also hosted a show on A&E called Mondo Magic, where he and co-host Chris Korn performed in cities around the United States, Canada and Singapore, and a show called Magic Asia, which took place on the streets of Mumbai, India. In an interview when Mondo Magic debuted, he told PhilStar.com that he loves “bringing out the child-like reaction in adults.”
“No one is born a cynic,” Benn said at the time. “People are just shaped cynics. That behavior comes from what they have seen in the past. But when magic defies physics, they start to shake a bit.”
Benn also appeared as a magician in the 1995 Harrison Ford-Julia Ormond romantic comedy Sabrina. His website says he has performed for celebrities that include Warren Buffet, Bono, Nelson Mandela, and Mary Tyler Moore. His corporate gigs include HBO, Paramount Pictures, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair’s Oscar Party and after-parties for the Golden Globes.
4. He’s Sort of Related to Lauren Hutton
According to the Daily Beast article, Benn’s parents are Vera Krijn and Charles Benn. They split when Benn was young and Krijn remarried to a man named William Wood Williamson. Neal says that Benn is not close to any of them — she says she has never met his parents or his sisters — but she says that Benn does admire his step-uncle, Bob Williamson.
Williamson was involved with model/actress Lauren Hutton for 27 years, from 1964 to 1997. But it came to light in the 1980s that he had squandered millions of Hutton’s money over the years. But she still called him her “everything” in a 2012 interview.
“We were together 27 years. So much of it was amazing and magical, but I also allowed myself to be infantilized by him, and that incident [with the money] forced me to quit being an infant, and to grow up,” said Hutton.
According to Neal, Benn admired Williamson as a “charismatic traveler,” an adventurer who helped him move to New York and pursue his magic career.
5. Benn Has Largely Gone Silent in the Past Few Years
Benn largely disappeared from the public eye after Magic Man ended. But he did appear on an episode of ABC’s revamped To Tell the Truth game show this past summer, where celebrities try to decide which of three people is of a certain profession and which two are lying.
In the episode, Benn pretended to be a professional hypnotist, but most of the judging panel (Jay Pharoah, Rob Riggle, Inbar Lavi, and Sherri Shepherd) did not believe him — he only convinced Riggle that he was the hypnotist. Benn’s Twitter feed has been quiet for the past year or so, while his Facebook page hasn’t been updated since 2013.
Tim Hardiman, a former NYPD commander and private investigator whom Neal befriended during her time on Law & Orde: SVU, tells the Daily Beast that he has found some evidence to support Neal’s claims against Benn.
“The things she’s told me, some of the specific incidents I have investigated or gathered information about, I have found there to be supporting evidence,” says Hardiman. “That there are exceptional crazy details in her story does not mean that it’s unbelievable. Just because it sounds like something out of a novel, doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
“The real question this is going to become: Was this a good honest relationship and people parted ways? Or was this relationship a fraud from the outset?” Hardiman says.
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