Charleston's sexiest alleged art thief 

Victim says theft likely drunken mistake

Police believe that James Simpson was acting alone when he allegedly stole a painting from Hank's Seafood Restaurant on Sunday night.

The painting was valued at $25,000, according to the police report, but it carried much more personal significance for restaurateur Hank Holliday. The painting was of his father holding a redfish and a fishing pole, based on a photo taken more than 50 years ago.

"It wasn't about the money," Holliday tells the City Paper. "It was a tribute to my dad."

It appears that the painting was taken when the door was left open during a private event.

"It was a fairly serious feeling of being violated," Holliday says.

He is "pleased, to put it mildly," that the stolen painting was retrieved within 24 hours.

"It was really remarkable police work," Holliday says.

Simpson is a James Island resident, so it's unclear how the painting wound up at a King Street apartment, where officers found it while working off of a tip Monday night. No one else was involved in the theft, says police spokesman Charles Francis, but he can't release a motive because of the continuing investigation.

Holliday thinks that it was just a drunken mistake and he's hopeful that the court will see it that way.

"There's not a lot to be gained from wrecking a life," he says.

The canvas incurred minor damage and will be repaired, Holliday says, likely returning to the wall in a few weeks.

Simpson is an employee of Chai's Lounge and Tapas, according to the police report. He was featured in the City Paper's sexiest bartender survey earlier this year.

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