Embattled Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) may finally be giving up. AL.com reported that the governor, for whom impeachment hearings started Monday, is expected to step down this week over his elaborate efforts to conceal an alleged affair with a former aide that investigators say misappropriated state resources and ran afoul of ethics laws.
Bentley’s lawyers are now reportedly trying to ease his departure from the governor’s mansion. Sources told AL.com that those attorneys are engaged in negotiations to allow Bentley to resign from office and plead to lesser charges. The Alabama Ethics Commission last week determined that there was probable cause to believe the governor committed four felony violations of state ethics and campaign finance laws while carrying out the alleged dalliance with his former top advisor, Rebekah Mason (both have denied having a physical affair).
While Bentley maintained as recently as Friday that he has “done nothing illegal,” his attorneys failed to block the release of a damning, 131-page state House Judiciary Committee report laying out the state’s evidence.
Here are five wild, revelatory details TPM pulled out of the lengthy so-called “impeachment report” and its supporting exhibits.
Dianne Bentley, who ended her 50-year marriage to the governor over the alleged affair, was subject to a grueling procession of humiliations as her husband’s rumored relationship with Mason escalated. As the report noted, “If Governor Bentley meant to hide his affair from his wife, he did not do it well.”
One such incident outlined in the report occurred in February 2014, when the governor’s staff, including Mason, accompanied the Bentleys to Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the National Governors Association. Bentley and Mason exchanged flirty text messages in plain view of his then-wife as their entourage ate dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, and the group then departed to a local bar, where Mason shared a rather baffling anecdote.
Mason “bragged that Governor Bentley had called and told her that he had opened his hotel room door to hotel staff while clad in boxers, believing Mason was on the other side,” according to the report.
After tense fights with his then-wife over the alleged affair, Bentley would sometimes bolt, leaving state security scrambling to locate the man they are paid to protect. Sometimes these frantic searches necessitated dispatching a state helicopter, according to Bentley’s former scheduling director, Linda Adams.
“One Saturday morning I was called from security, and I don’t remember which one telling me, that we’ve lost the governor,” Adams said in sworn testimony before the Alabama Ethics Commission included in the report. “I said, what do you mean we’ve lost the governor. They said well, he just took off in his truck.”
“I said it’s your job to find him, you know, why are you calling me kind of thing,” she continued. “And I think maybe we got the helicopter to try to track him down that way too.”
Bentley was ultimately located at his family’s beach house near Gulf Shores.
Unbeknownst to the governor and Mason, the frequent romantic texts they exchanged were all visible to Dianne Bentley. The governor’s state-issued cell phone’s cloud was linked to his state-issued iPad, which he had gifted to his then-wife, allowing her to watch the rumored affair unfold in real time.
“I’m so in love with you,” Bentley wrote to Mason in one text, along with two heart-eye emojis. “We are pitiful.”
“Poor Robert. Poor Rebekah,” he added.
“Yes… Bless our hearts… And other parts,” Mason wrote back.
“Magnetic,” Bentley replied.
The device oversight was only one of Bentley’s errors.
In spring 2014, he mistakenly sent a text to his wife reading, “I love you Rebekah,” along with an emoji of a red rose.
Dianne Bentley’s chief of staff, Heather Hannah, helped her boss secretly record phone calls in which the governor talked about his love for Mason and how he liked to come up behind her and fondle her breasts, according to the report. Once the governor learned that these recordings existed, he came to suspect Hannah’s involvement, and the report alleges he threatened her at the governor’s mansion on several occasions.
According to Hannah, Robert Bentley approached her in the spring of 2014 in the building’s kitchen, pointed his finger in her face, and warned, “You will never work in the State of Alabama again if you tell anyone about this.”
Another altercation occurred in the parking lot soon after, when Bentley allegedly accused her of bugging his office and told her to “watch herself.” He warned that because of his political office, Alabamians “bow to his throne,” according to Hannah’s account.
Hannah also alleged that she was intimidated both before and after her June 2016 testimony to the Alabama Ethics Commission. On the first occasion, she said she heard rustling in the bushes outside her home and went outside to investigate. She found the words “die bitch” and “you will fucking die” scratched into her car. Days after her testimony, Hannah said she was visited at home again: After hearing a loud noise while getting ready for bed, she walked into her kitchen to find someone had thrown a rock through her window.
Bentley allegedly enlisted state law enforcement officials and his bodyguard, Ray Lewis, to try to track down recorded phone calls between him and Mason and silence questions about the rumored affair.
As the report put it, “Governor Bentley directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests and, in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation.”
Bentley allegedly directed Lewis and Spencer Collier, then secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, to try to intimidate Hannah, his ex-wife’s chief of staff, and Adams, his scheduling director, into revealing the location of the recordings. According to the report, he asked Collier to research criminal law to see if Hannah could be arrested for making the recordings, and to be prepared to make that arrest himself.
Bentley also allegedly ordered Lewis to direct his staff to stop “gossiping” about Mason, and twice asked him to break up with Mason on his behalf.