'They set out to destroy me'; Spencer Collier opens up about Bentley
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The issues that led to Robert Bentley's resignation as Alabama's 53rd governor continue to impact more people than Bentley and his former aide, Rebekah Mason.
Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, who has a wrongful termination lawsuit pending against Bentley, says his life has been dramatically changed over the last year, forcing his family to rebuild from the ground up.
"I feel vindicated, it's been a hard year," Collier explained Thursday. "They didn't just set out to fire me, they set out to destroy me."
For Collier, who is now Selma's police chief, that vindication came at a price.
"In one night we went from both having an income to being broke," Collier explained. "We both had to file bankruptcy because of it."
Collier was cooperating with state and federal investigations into the governor's office at the time he rolled back the curtain on the rumored affair between Bentley and Mason, alleging they used state resources to facilitate their relationship.
"I told the whole story," Collier affirmed. "I wanted people to know two things: He fired me, or she told him to fire me over those affidavits, and he inserted himself into a criminal case."
Those statements appeared in Bentley's impeachment report, and the plea the ex-governor accepted proved he broke the law by providing campaign funds for Mason's legal fees. Collier believes Bentley dodged a bullet by taking the plea, stating he would have been convicted and likely incarcerated if the case had gone to trial.
"I try not to take joy in people's misery," Collier said. "There's a term in criminal justice world, it's a Latin word that means "You get what you deserve". They put themselves in this position. They made the decision to attack my family. Take all my income."
Old wounds are hard to heal. Collier is still working through the fallout with Bentley and longtime colleague Stan Stabler, the man who took Collier's old job and - according to reports – lied to the media.
"I looked up to that man like a father", Collier said of Bentley. "He told us when we were coming into the administration, 'We are going to go down in history as the cleanest administration that's ever served'. Truthfully, it's going to go down as a most corrupt."
COLLIER'S ATTORNEY CALLS BENTLEY A 'CROOK'
Civil litigation involving Bentley is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks and Collier's wrongful termination lawsuit is expected to resume after Mason's possible criminal investigations conclude. Mason pleaded the fifth to avoid self-incrimination in this litigation.
Collier's attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, doesn't believe Bentley will be able to claim immunity in this case, as he did in the civil lawsuit filed against him by former executive detail officer, Ray Lewis.
"What the governor did to Spencer was a total abuse of authority," Mendelsohn stated. "It rose to criminal conduct in my mind. So I don't believe the immunity will apply to Spencer in the governor's case."
Collier was the first to roll back the curtain on the rumored affair between Bentley and Mason, following Collier's ouster. During that press conference, Collier said every statement he made could be said under oath to a jury.
"It's abundantly clear now what happened to Spencer," Mendelsohn explained. "A little over a year ago he had his press conference and everything he said has turned out to be true."
Mendelsohn says the impeachment report and Bentley's plea this week strengthen the merits of his case, and the confidence in Collier.
"Bentley accused Spencer of being criminal and now it turns out nothing was criminal," Mendelsohn added. "Now it's all come together and the public knows Spencer was right and Bentley was a crook."
Mendelsohn is now focused on putting Bentley under oath to preserve his testimony, stating this is the point he hoped the case would reach before going to trial.
"I want to take Mr. Bentley's deposition, if for no other reason he's 74, not in great health, he's been through a great deal lately, he's a shamed man," Mendelsohn said.
Bentley's attorneys have worked in the past to have all civil litigation against the former governor dismissed.
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