On Wednesday, former Law and Order: SVU actress Diane Neal filed an amended complaint—as first reported in The Daily Beast—in a years-long court fight against her former partner, the magician JB Benn, accusing him of nine charges, including fraud, defamation, assault and battery, identity theft, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She alleged the magician had cheated her out of their shared home, maimed and abused her pets, intentionally isolated her from her friends, threatened her, physically abused her, and sexually assaulted her.
Benn has denied the charges in court, claiming Neal—in pursuit of damages over their real estate dispute—had concocted an elaborate lie “as a tactic to cloud the fact that, on the merits, she has no entitlement to the relief she seeks.”
On Thursday, after publication of the story on Neal’s amended complaint, The Daily Beast received and reviewed an audio recording of Neal and Benn, in which the actress threatens to harm Benn and kill her pet dog. At various points in the tape, Neal berates Benn for “having no friends;” tells him, “I’m going to kill you. Or I’m going to sue the fuck out of you;” and says she will “murder” the dog in front of Benn by shooting it in the head.
A source with knowledge of the situation claims Neal was on a muscle relaxant called Flexeril—which she takes semi-regularly—during the conversation. She was prescribed the drug for a back injury she suffered after a car accident in 2013. The Daily Beast also reviewed a nine-second video clip Benn apparently took of Neal, in her bed on the same night, in which she appeared to be slurring her speech.
Neal’s lawyer, Sarmad M. Khojasteh, said in a statement that the tape “offers a heartbreaking glimpse into the tortured existence Ms. Neal endured at the hands of Mr. Benn.” He went on to claim Benn had released the audio “solely to distract from the the allegations of physical and sexual assault against him, which are corroborated by witnesses and photographs, and from the fact that he was arrested for stalking Ms. Neal in the last six months, pled guilty, and currently is under an order of protection prohibiting him from contacting her.”
The audio obtained by The Daily Beast was not submitted by Benn.
Victims’ advocates argue that survivors may deal with trauma in ways that don’t appear to make sense to an observer.
Ruth Glenn, President and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where Neal was recently named an honorary board member, submitted a statement contextualizing her behavior. “When survivors of domestic violence come forward,” Glenn wrote, “they know that retaliation and continued abuse is sure to be the response from the person who has harmed them. It is a powerful tool abusers use to maintain control. This is a primary reason survivors do not come forward or brace themselves for further violence when they do.”
Neither the magician nor his legal team responded to requests for comment. In an answer to Neal’s February 2019 lawsuit, Benn denied Neal's claims and accused her of swearing “to anything, without regard to the truth, to paint me in a false light and to try [sic] get from this Court what she wants…”
A review of the audio file’s hex code revealed that the recording was likely made on Nov. 7, 2017, at 7:33 p.m. on the Apple VoiceMemos application, and uploaded to iTunes the following day. It opens in the middle of an argument, in part over Benn’s refusal to tell Neal the passcode to his cellphone. Neal is audibly angry; Benn is soft-spoken. “All you get is nice things and you treat me like shit,” Neal says. “You just don’t care.”
Benn counters: “That’s not true.”
“Do you think doing manual labor on a house that doesn’t belong to me and spending my own money and all my fucking time and all my fucking energy doing that is fucking helpful to me?” Neal asks, later adding, “Is it helpful for someone like that to be treated like shit for four years? For you to start shit with everyone I fucking know? For you to isolate me? For you to be a prick and then spend my fucking money on your fucking house and you to be such a selfish prick? I’ve never met your fucking parents and I don’t know your fucking cellphone code? Is that helpful?… Do you think there would be self-esteem building for anyone?”
At one point, Benn murmurs to Neal, “We’re just going to break up. And that’s that.”
“No,” Neal says. “No, no no, JB… No. I’m going to kill you—or I’m going to sue the fuck out of you. I’m going to make your life as miserable as you’ve made mine. The difference is that unlike me you have nothing to lose. Because your life is this big. Your life is this big! You have no friends, you don’t do anything, nobody loves you. You have no family. You don’t have anything to lose. Me? I’ve already lost everything. I have now nothing to lose. I’m going to fucking take you down with me.”
Later, Neal tells Benn, “You know what? I’m going to fucking murder Charlie [the dog] in front of you. I’m going to kill him in front of you.” She then says in a singsong voice, “Charlieeee I’m going to kill youuu… I’m going to shoot you in the head in front of your daddy so that your brain goes all over him! Maybe, just maybe, then you could illicit some sort of emotion from this fucking android.”
At another point, Neal asks, “How would you like to die? Would you like to be lit on fire, like alive? Carbon monoxide? That could be very easy while you’re up in the office. You wouldn’t even know. Even though I spent $100 on your carbon monoxide detectors each, you didn’t put them up. That’s all you had to do. You didn’t have to buy them; you didn’t have to pick them out; you didn’t have to research them. You didn’t have to do anything! You just had to put two screws in a goddamn wall. Fucking you deserve to die … You want to be Peter Pan? I’ll kill you before you get fucking old motherfucker… You saw me doing what I fucking love, and you took it all away.”
“What could you possibly think life is about?” the actress asks. “You don’t think it’s about having fun, because you’re the least fun person I’ve ever met. You don’t think it’s about connection, because you refuse to feel connected towards anybody, even me, which is why I’m going to punish you with death and killing your fucking dog. Because I gave you everything—something everyone on the fucking planet wanted—even [Neal’s ex-husband] was livid I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He fought. You, on the other hand, won’t even give me the password to your cellphone.”
She concludes: “Summon up some fucking joie de vivre.”
Near the end of the recording, Neal asks Benn, “Seriously what would happen if I killed you? I mean, aside from me going to jail. Like would the earth stop? Would people cry? How long would it be before anyone knew you were dead? Until your next gig. And then I would call them up and say you were in the hospital or something. That would buy me a few more months. Yeah. Okay. How long until the parents figured it out?”
“I don’t know,” Benn says. “One of them isn’t doing well right now.”
“Who the fuck cares?” Neal responds. “You don’t.”
A few seconds later, Benn adds: “I’m going to work on getting better tomorrow.”
“You’re not,” she says. “I’m going to kill you before the sun rises.”
In the first of two lawsuits Neal filed against Benn, she submitted transcripts of recordings she says she made in which Benn allegedly threatened her, including that he would “fucking destroy this house,” and made vague references to doing “everything” to protect himself if she attempted to criminally charge him. “If you go after me in a very litigious way, I, I’m going, I have to protect myself,” Benn said, according to the transcript. “And there’s no end to needing to protect, I mean, I will do everything to protect myself.”
Neal’s friends told The Daily Beast that Benn would text them incessantly with his complaints about Neal, allegedly including that she was “suicidal, crazy and narcissistic.” Neal denied being suicidal.
And a neighbor of the former couple, interviewed for a previous article, said that the actress and the magician “just wanted to vent” about each other, and that Benn “tends to go around videotaping people and taping phone conversations, and obviously not telling you and trying to use this against you. Even though I repeatedly told him I didn’t want to see any of the stuff he recorded about Diane, he would just put the phone in your face.”
The neighbor recalled a recording in which Benn was taunting Neal after a difficult day: “She was upset and he was videotaping it… He showed it to me. I just found it sad.”