Only an hour after being arrested on two campaign finance misdemeanors, embattled Alabama Governor Robert Bentley resigned.
BREAKING: Lt Gov has received Resignation letter. Judge: 100hours of volunteer service as dr, not to run for office, waived retirement
— Jenn Horton (@JennWSFA) April 10, 2017
Bentley’s resignation came on the same day that the Alabama House of Representatives opened impeachment hearings against the Republican. The 74-year-old dermatologist-turned-politician was accused of misappropriating state funds in an effort to cover up an affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his political advisor and one-time Sunday school student.
Mugshot is up, expected in court any minute. pic.twitter.com/LWAtnl0C0F
— Jenn Horton (@JennWSFA) April 10, 2017
Prior to Bentley’s resignation, he was arrested and charged with failure to file a campaign finance report and failure to disclose information on a statement of economic interest. AP News reported that Bentley pleaded guilty to the two charges and was immediately sentenced to 100 hours of community service as a physician and barred from seeking public office in the future. He must also surrender more than $36,000 to the state and serve one year of probation. In exchange, the state has agreed to not file felony charges against Bentley.
After his appearance in court, Bentley made his way to the Alabama Capitol’s old House chamber and announced his resignation.
As CNN reported, Bentley opted to make a short statement and did not field questions.
“I’ve not always made the right choices.I’ve not always said the right things. Though I have sometimes failed, I’ve always tried to live up to the high expectations the people place on the person who holds this esteemed office.”
Shortly after Bentley’s press conference, a copy of his official resignation was made available online.
Here is the resignation letter from governor Bentley pic.twitter.com/audcEDicrE
— Alabama Politics (@AlabamaPolitics) April 10, 2017
News of Bentley’s resignation had been swirling for most of the day. AL.com reported that Bentley’s attorneys had spent part of Sunday and Monday negotiating Bentley’s resignation.
Today’s resignation comes only days after Bentley held a news conference where, according to AL.com, he stated he would not resign and maintained his innocence.
“Once again let me say, I do not plan to resign. I have done nothing illegal.”
Bentley’s possible impeachment was only part of the scandal-plagued politician’s problems.
Last week, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Bentley had violated ethics and campaign laws. Their findings, which included four possible felonies, were turned over to prosecutors in Montgomery County. If convicted, Bentley would have faced 20 years for each count.
For more than a year, Bentley had faced calls for his resignation from state officials, both Republicans and Democrats.
Bentley’s resignation brings to a close a messy scandal that began shortly after his wife of 50 years filed for divorce on August 28, 2015. Dianne Jones Bentley’s abrupt divorce filing led some state officials to ponder whether Bentley’s divorce was tied to rumors of an affair with Mason.
One week after divorce papers were filed, a member of the Alabama House filed a letter with the state’s attorney general’s office calling for Bentley to be investigated for possible misuse of public funds in connection with his divorce and alleged affair.
Bentley hit back in an interview with AL.com, where he continued to deny an affair with Mason.
“There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line. There were many people – my own family and there were a lot of other families – many people, people that I love, that I care about, they went through some difficult times because people were able to say whatever they wanted to say. They were just ridiculous. I don’t know how anyone could ever believe them.”
On March 22, 2016, Bentley fired the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Spencer Collier. The following day Collier held a small press conference and confirmed that Bentley had been carrying on an affair with Mason, his chief advisor. Collier admitted that he had known about the affair for more than two years and had advised Bentley to end his relationship with Mason.
During the press conference, Collier alluded to possible misuse of state funds, including chartering a private plane to keep Mason’s name off of flight records.
The Alabama House Judiciary Committee hired a special investigator to look into Bentley. It was during that investigation that embarrassing text messages and audio recordings between Bentley and Mason hit the press.
Bentley continually denied that he had committed any crimes, but facing the possibility of 80 years in prison, decided that it was in the best interest for all involved to resign. Collier concurred.
Spencer Collier: Bentley finally got what he deserved https://t.co/gGSVJZwBRp
— John Archibald (@JohnArchibald) April 11, 2017
Lt. Governor Kay Ivey was sworn in shortly after Bentley’s resignation as the 54th Governor of Alabama. The Republican will become Alabama’s second female governor.
[Featured Image by Butch Dill/AP Images]