Bentley impeachment report argues governor used state cops to cover up tawdry affair

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The House Judiciary Committee special counsel's report on Gov. Robert Bentley was released late this afternoon and accuses the governor of directing state law enforcement personnel to advance his personal interests.

Much of the report's focus is on Bentley's relationship with his alleged mistress Rebekah Mason.

"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," the report says. "Witnesses and documents have confirmed that an inappropriate relationship developed between Governor Bentley and his chief advisor, Rebekah Mason.

"Within his inner political circle, Governor Bentley made little effort to mask the relationship."

The report contains 131 pages of narrative and thousands of pages of exhibits. It doesn't make specific recommendations on the two impeachment allegations against the governor: corruption in office and neglect of duty; but it details a number of actions by the governor that involve law enforcement personnel being asked to handle things outside their regular duties for his benefit.

The report also draws heavily from lawsuits filed against Bentley, including a lawsuit by Ray Lewis, his former head of security. 

[Read the House Judiciary Committee special counsel's full report]

The report, with a number of exhibits is also available online.

Bentley's impeachment attorney Ross Garber was critical of the report.

"We will review today's document dump - which appears to be an amalgam of hearsay, rumor and innuendo," Garber said. "I continue to have confidence that there will ultimately be fairness and due process in this matter."

Pursuit of Spencer Collier

The report also focuses on Bentley's actions involving Spencer Collier the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Collier was fired by Bentley in March and publicly accused Bentley of having an affair with Mason.

An investigation of Collier was launched before his firing. The committee's report includes information from the ALEA investigator assigned to investigate Collier. She described a meeting with Bentley and a number of other officials, about two weeks before Collier was fired.

"Special Agent Bickhaus recalls that her bullet points for the presentation were: (1) Collier’s gun purchases, (2) Collier’s clothing purchases and allowances, and (3) Collier’s absenteeism," the report says.  "She recalls that Governor Bentley asked her two questions: the first related to substance abuse issues with Collier, and the second related to any symptoms of poor mental health. The latter question struck Special Agent Bickhaus as odd, since having mental health issues was not a policy or procedure violation."

The report says that Collier and Ray Lewis, the former head of his security detail, tried to convince him to end the relationship with Mason. Collier told him it would be illegal if he used state resources to further the affair with Mason, according to the report.

"Governor Bentley responded to the intervention with contrition, and asked for advice on ending his affair," the report says. "By the time the three arrived in Greenville, Governor Bentley said he was determined to stop. He told Lewis and Collier: “I’m gonna fix this tonight.”
Collier recalls that when he spoke with Governor Bentley early the next morning by phone, Governor Bentley told him that he had changed his mind. He said he could not go through with ending his affair with Mason."

A 'watershed moment' 

In a key section report says Bentley's reaction to finding out there were recordings of him talking to Mason, recorded by his wife, "was a watershed moment.

"It was the tapes that led to the moments of contrition by Governor Bentley," the report says. "Most relevant to the Committee’s consideration of the proposed Articles of Impeachment, however, is the fact that Governor Bentley became obsessed with the existence of the tapes and a desire to prevent them from becoming public."

The report also chronicles a series of odd encounters involving an aide to the governor's now ex-wife Dianne Bentley. The report says Hannah believed Bentley blamed her for Mrs. Bentley's recording of calls between the governor and Mason.

"Ms. Bentley made several efforts to capture Governor Bentley on the phone with Mason at the Mansion, but those efforts failed," the report says. "The successful recordings were made during the Bentleys’ trip to their beach house in March 2014. Ms. Bentley captured the first of two recordings by turning on the phone’s recording device, placing it in her purse on the sofa, and then announcing to her husband that she was taking a long walk on the beach. Promptly upon her departure—within approximately 59 seconds—Governor Bentley was on the phone with Mason."

The report then addresses what she did with the recordings.

"After Ms. Bentley successfully made the recordings, she enlisted Heather Hannah’s help to extract them from her phone," the report says. "Hannah did so by transferring the recordings to a laptop and burning them onto a disc. She made a copy of the disc to keep for her own protection and gave the original to Ms. Bentley."

The report says the recordings were played for the Bentley's son Paul.

"Heather Hannah told us that in the late Spring of 2014, Paul traveled to Montgomery and forced his father to listen to the recordings that had been captured by Ms. Bentley," the report says. "At that point, Governor Bentley stopped denying the relationship to his family."

Hannah also had two memorable encounters with Bentley after he was confronted with the tapes.

"Hannah testified that Governor Bentley’s suspicion of her was so great that he personally confronted her on two occasions at the Governor’s Mansion," the report says. "One confrontation took place in front of a wall of refrigerators in the kitchen of the Mansion. Governor Bentley pointed his finger in Hannah’s face and threatened, 'You will never work in the State of Alabama again if you tell anyone about this (the affair).'"

Vandalism alleged 

The report then recounts another encounter where Hannah ran into the governor in the Governor's Mansion parking lot.

"Then, Governor Bentley confronted her about his suspicion that she had bugged his office to listen to conversations between him and Mason. Hannah relates that Governor Bentley warned her to 'watch herself,' that she 'did not know what she was getting into,' and that because he was the governor, people 'bow to his throne.'"

Hannah also told investigators she was the victim of two vandalism incidents last year after she provided a deposition to the Alabama Ethics Commission on Bentley's relationship with Mason.

The first incident involved "scribbles" on her car windows, the report says.

"She took photographs of the writing on her windows, and it showed up much clearer in the pictures," the report says. "The first photograph is of writing on what appears to be the driver side windows of her vehicle, and it appears to read, “Bi*** Die.” The second photograph is of writing on the windshield, and it appears to read, “You will f***ing die."

The second incident is also recounted in the report.

"She walked back to her kitchen where she believed the sound originated and saw a rock lying on the floor. She also observed a broken panel in a large window on the front of her house," the report says. "Hannah immediately called the police, who came to her home and took a police report at twenty minutes after midnight. At that time, Hannah also advised the officers of the vandalism of her vehicle. The police report reflects that Hannah told the officers at the time that she believed both incidents were related to her recent deposition."

Bentley's attorneys want hearing delay

The report details the special counsel's investigation into the governor's actions in office. Bentley's lawyers motions also sought to block impeachment proceedings from happening under the proposed schedule.

The House Judiciary Committee hearings that were set to begin Monday have been delayed 10 days in ruling last this afternoon by a Montgomery County judge.

The Bentley legal team argued in their motions that the actions of the committee set to consider impeachment violate the governor's right to due process.

Governor Robert Bentley spoke on the steps of the state capitol just hours before the report detailing the findings of the impeachment investigation was set to come out. Bentley apologized for failings in his personal life but insisted he never misused state resources. The governor pleaded with the state not to traffic in his personal embarrassment.

The governor emphasized yet again that he has no plans to resign.