Bentley resigns; read his plea agreement here

Published 6:12 pm Monday, April 10, 2017

Robert Bentley resigned as governor of Alabama Monday afternoon, shortly before pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance.

The action was a stark contrast to his behavior on Friday, when he defiantly said he had no intention of resigning, two days after the Alabama Ethics Commission had recommended four ethics charges against him, and hours ahead of the release of investigative report by the special counsel who was leading impeachment proceedings against him.

The report, which was analyzed and reported on by Alabama and national media through the weekend, showed that Bentley became obsessed with recovering recordings of conversations between himself and his political advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, with whom he was romantically involved. He used law enforcement resources at his disposal to attempt to recover the recordings, and he threatened staffers who knew about his relationship with Mason.

Impeachment proceedings began as planned Monday morning, but stalled as details of Bentley’s plea agreement and resignation were hammered out between his attorneys and the attorney general’s office.

The Ethics Commission had referred the recommended charges against Bentley to the Montgomery County district attorney. Those recommended charges were forwarded to the attorney general’s office, to be consolidated with potential charges from their investigation into Bentley’s wrong-doings.

Monday afternoon, Bentley pled guilty to two misdemeanors, including failing to report a $50,000 loan he made to his campaign account, and converting campaign funds to personal use when he personally signed a campaign check to pay approximately $9,000 in legal fees for Mason.

Bentley was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which was suspended, and 12 months of probation. He was ordered to surrender campaign funds and pay approximately $16,000 in fines, as well as perform 100 hours of community service.

Former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks, who was serving as a special prosecutor for the attorney general in Bentley’s case, said Bentley’s punishment is far greater than his misdemeanor charges. She estimated that the loss of his state retirement will cost him more than $1 million over the course of his lifetime, and said he also will forego state security as part of his plea deal.

Brooks would not say that Bentley’s plea deal closed the attorney general’s investigation. Attorney General Steve Marshall, who was appointed AG in February, recused himself from the investigation.

Shortly after pleading guilty, Bentley, 74, returned to the Capitol, where he held a press conference.

Being elected governor in 2010 was the “greatest honor of my life,” he said.

He did not say why he changed his mind about resigning, but said “it is no longer fair to you, my staff, cabinet, all of those who work in state agency” to be subjected to the consequences of his past behavior.

Bentley said he has prayed for forgiveness for the past year, and that he loves the people of Alabama with all of his heart.

Shortly after his speech, he tweeted “Thank you Alabama. From the bottom of my heart. God bless our great state.”



His plea agreement here.