Robert Bentley resigns as AL governor amid plea deal, impeachment hearings

Robert Bentley resigns as AL governor amid plea deal, impeachment hearings
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Bentley arriving at the Montgomery County Jail. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Bentley arriving at the Montgomery County Jail. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Robert Bentley officially resigned as Alabama's governor Monday afternoon, according to supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks. Lt. Gov. Kay was sworn in as the state's 54th governor at 6 p.m. in front of media and a crowd in the Old Senate Chambers of the Alabama Capitol.

Bentley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges Monday afternoon - failing to file a major contribution report and knowingly converting campaign contributions for personal use. He appeared in a Montgomery County Courtroom earlier in the afternoon and said "yes sir" when the judge asked if he was guilty.

Bentley's sentence includes 30 days in jail, which the judge suspended, 12 months unsupervised probation, paying $100 to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission and reimbursing the campaign fund almost $9,000.

According to the plea agreement, Bentley has agreed he will not seek or serve in any public office, will waive any retirement benefits, will pay $7,000 in fines, will surrender almost $37,000 in campaign funds and will do at least 100 hours of community service as a physician.

"Bentley was 74 years old, he has lost his job, he has lost his church, he has lost his family," supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks said before pausing. "Don't take that to say that I feel sorry for him. He did what he did and deserves to now be called a criminal."

Bentley made a public address in the Old House Chambers of the Capitol following his resignation and guilty plea.

Here's is the official resignation letter from Gov. Bentley and Gov. Ivey's oath of office letter.

"Though I have committed myself to improve the lives of the people of our state, there have been times that I have let you and our people down and I am sorry for that. The consequences of my mistakes have been grievously unfair to you, my loyal and dedicated staff, and my cabinet, and all of our agencies who have continued your exemplary service to our people in your respective agencies in the face of difficult circumstances," Bentley said. "I can no longer allow my family, my dear friends, my dedicated staff and cabinet to be subjected to the consequences that my past actions have brought upon them."

Bentley has been engulfed in scandal since the state's former top cop, Spencer Collier, publicly accused the governor of having an affair with an adviser on March 23, 2016. Bentley admitted to making inappropriate comments to Rebekah Mason but repeatedly denied the two had a physical affair.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler filed an ethics complaint against Bentley on March 25, 2016.

On Wednesday, just over a year after the complaint was filed, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause Bentley violated ethics laws and campaign finance laws.

The ethics commission voted to refer his case to the Montgomery County District Attorney's office for possible prosecution. On Monday, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey sent a letter to acting Attorney General Ellen Brooks referring Bentley's case to her office.

"In order to prevent duplication of effort or interference with your investigation, I am hereby sending this referral to you," Bailey wrote in a letter to Acting Attorney General Ellen Brooks. "I am very confident that you will handle this in a professional manner and will diligently seek the truth in this matter as you have done previously over your 30-year plus history as a prosecutor."

During a hastily-called news conference on the Alabama Capitol steps Friday, Bentley addressed the public and asked for forgiveness. While he admitted he had made mistakes, he said he had no plans to resign.

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the articles of impeachment against Bentley, released an investigation website and a 131-page report saying Bentley "encouraged an atmosphere of intimidation" and directed a state law enforcement officer to "advance his personal interests."

SLIDESHOW: Emails, texts from Gov. Bentley investigation

Bentley filed an emergency temporary restraining order Friday to prevent the committee from proceeding with impeachment hearings, but on Saturday the Alabama Supreme Court issued a stay on that order, allowing the hearings to move forward.

The Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh had all called for Bentley's resignation in the days since the report was released.

Impeachment hearings began Monday morning but the committee went into a recess at 2:30 p.m. following developments by Bentley.

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