Alabama Governor Robert Bentley resigned Monday after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of campaign finance law violations, ending six years in office and giving a dramatic ending to a sex scandal that consumed his administration for more than a year.
Bentley was booked into Montgomery County Jail Monday afternoon and pleaded guilty to charges of failing to file a major campaign finance report and converting campaign funds for personal use. He was sentenced to a 30 day suspended jail sentence and 12 months on probation; ordered to pay $50,000 in fines and ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.
The misdemeanor sentence means Bentley, a dermatologist by trade, will be able to keep his medical license.
Kay Ivey will be sworn in as Alabama's 54th governor at 6 p.m. tonight.
Bentley is expected to make a statement early Monday evening.
Bentley's governorship became increasingly overshadowed by allegations he pursued an affair with former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason and attempted to use state resources to pursue it, and state law enforcement to cover it up. The allegation led Monday to an unprecedented impeachment hearing into the governor.
"Robert Bentley, governor of Alabama, directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests over those of the state," Jack Sharman, special counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, told representatives Monday afternoon. "In timelines characterized by increasingly desperate conduct, he subjected honest career law enforcement to tasks to protect his reputation, both political and personal."
An impeachment report released Friday accused Bentley of becoming obsessed with recovering recordings of conversations between him and Mason made by Dianne Bentley, who divorced the governor in 2015 after 50 years of marriage. According to the report, Bentley threatened staffers who knew or who he thought knew about the affair, and sent law enforcement to recover the recordings or question those he thought might know about them. Bentley is also accused of using a security member to try to break up with Mason on at least two occasions.
The report also alleges Bentley brought Mason with him in state vehicles and aircraft, at times overriding his security detail to do so. Sharman said he only received pre-edited flight logs upon request.
The impeachment report was one of a host of struggles faced by the governor. Two days prior, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that the governor violated ethics and campaign finance laws, and forwarded their findings to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey for further prosecution. Bailey sent those findings Monday to Ellen Brooks, serving as acting attorney general in a probe that office is conducting into Bentley's conduct. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, appointed by the governor in February, recused himself from the investigation shortly afterward.
Legislative leaders had been carefully noncommittal about impeachment since House members first pushed a resolution through last year, but the Ethics Commission report, combined with the impeachment proceeding, pushed Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, both called for Bentley's resignation last week. Bentley called an impromptu presser on Friday to say he would not.
“Once again, let me say I do not plan to resign,” the governor said Friday. “I have done nothing illegal. If the people want to know (whether) I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not.”
It was the first impeachment considered by the Alabama House of Representatives since 1915, and the first ever directed at an Alabama governor.