For Robert Bentley, impeachment is the last thing he expected after a temporary court victory. Governor Bentley could be impeached and face a jail sentence if hearings in an alleged sex scandal show he abused his power with a close aide.
Over the weekend, the Alabama Supreme Court gave the green light for Governor Robert Bentley’s impeachment hearings. The state’s high court overturned a lower court’s temporary stay granted to the embattled doctor-turned-politician. The ruling gives legislators the right to move ahead to impeach the state’s governor.
Dr. Bentley, 74, a licensed dermatologist and ex-church deacon, is accused of violating terms of his office by allegedly engaging in an affair with a top aide to the Office of the Governor, according to the New York Times.
Court rules Alabama impeachment against Gov. Robert Bentley can move forward. https://t.co/s7qjSUrpFu— The Associated Press (@AP) April 8, 2017
Reports suggest Bentley took part in phone sex with a woman while still married to his wife of five decades. They have since divorced since the scandal broke.
“Bentley can be heard making the following sexually-charged remarks in the audio recording, with the last parts of the conversation making it sound like there was a physical interaction between the duo. As the phone excerpt recording begins, Bentley is reassuring the person on the other end of the phone that everything was fine, and that an unknown person could not ascertain to whom Bentley was sending a message.”
Alabama’s State House Judiciary Committee will begin impeachment hearings on Monday. At the center of Robert Bentley’s impeachment hearings is a 3,000-page account that was released on Friday.
It outlines allegations against the governor, one that claims “security personnel reported seeing [top aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason] leaving the office with her hair tousled and her clothing in disarray.” The report also includes alleged evidence of text messages exchanged between Bentley and the woman and threats to his wife’s staff members or anyone who gossiped about the affair.
Despite the controversy surrounding the Republican governor’s sex scandal, his divorce, and calls for impeachment hearings, Bentley maintains his innocence. Previously, he admitted having an “inappropriate relationship” with the woman, but denied having sexual relations.
He held a news conference one day ahead of the court’s ruling and addressed rumors that he would be impeached. From the state capitol, Governor Bentley remained resolute about his eventual exoneration and said resignation was not an option.
“I do not plan to resign. I have done nothing illegal. If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no. I have not.”
Ross Garber, with Bentley’s legal team, weighed in on court’s reversal and the planned impeachment process next week. The defense team insists that the hearings are not fair on their merits and their client is not being afforded his right under the law to respond to the proposed charges.
“It’s disappointing to hear the committee will plow forward while the Supreme Court is considering the case. We have no idea what the committee has planned for Monday or who its witnesses will be.”
Robert Bentley made news in 2015 when he challenged the Obama Administration over plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country following the Paris terror attacks. Some 129 people died in a mass shooting and multiple suicide attacks in several parts of the French city.
Bentley released a statement and used the attack and mass loss of life to substantiate his refusal to relocate asylum seekers from Syria.
“As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” Governor Bentley said in the statement.
Should the Alabama legislature succeed with impeachment hearings, Robert Bentley could be jailed and removed as governor. According to the SF Gate, potential felony charges involve the governor’s alleged use of state funds to cover up his infidelity.
[Featured image by AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File]