Alabama's Governor Resigns Amid Scandal Over Alleged Affair And Cover-Up
Updated at 9:05 p.m. ET
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has resigned after pleading guilty to abusing his office, allegedly to conceal an affair with a political adviser.
Supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks announced Monday that Bentley "pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges: failing to file a major contribution report, in violation of Code of Alabama §17-5-8.1(c); and knowingly converting campaign contributions to personal use, in violation of Code of Alabama §36-25-6." She added, "He has resigned from office."
The Associated Press describes the scene as the plea agreement was signed:
"Bentley appeared sullen and looked down at the floor during the Monday afternoon session. ..."The agreement specifies that Bentley must surrender campaign funds totaling $36,912 within a week and perform 100 hours of community service as a physician. He also cannot seek public office again."
The governor, a Republican, was briefly booked into Montgomery jail, according to local media reports, before heading to the state Capitol to announce his resignation.
Republican state Rep. Ed Henry, who had introduced articles of impeachment against Bentley last year, said, "I think we have a great day for Alabama, where justice was done. Corruption was spotted, recognized and dealt with. ... even though it was slower and little more painful than we had anticipated."
Bentley had vowed as recently as Friday not to resign, saying he had done nothing illegal.
But the state Supreme Court decided to allow Alabama legislators to pursue impeachment hearings against Bentley, and calls for his resignation had been growing.
Last week, a panel investigating Bentley's actions released a scathing report, as NPR's Debbie Elliott reported:
"It lays out in sometimes sordid detail an extramarital relationship between the 74-year-old Bentley and political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. "The report accuses him of using state resources, including law enforcement, to hide the affair and protect his reputation, 'in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia.' " 'Governor Bentley's loyalty shifted from the State of Alabama to himself,' [special counsel Jack] Sharman wrote in an executive summary. He said Bentley 'encouraged an atmosphere of intimidation' to ensure the silence of his staff. ... "Political pressure for [Bentley] to resign has been growing since tape recordings were released in 2016 of him making sexually suggestive comments to Mason. Both were married at the time. "Dianne Bentley later filed for divorce. The report says her suspicions of an affair were confirmed when Bentley mistakenly sent his wife a text that read 'I love you Rebekah' with a red-rose emoji."
Also last week, the Alabama Ethics Commission found "probable cause" that Bentley improperly used campaign funds in connection with the alleged affair, among other ethical and legal violations.
NPR's Debbie Elliott notes that Bentley is the third Alabama official to lose his job in a year. Roy Moore was suspended from his post as chief justice of the state Supreme Court when he ordered state judges to disregard the U.S. Supreme Court's decision supporting the legality of same-sex marriage. Mike Hubbard was removed as speaker of the state House after being convicted of ethics charges.
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