Gov. Bentley’s lawyer blasts impeachment investigation, says process has been ‘hijacked’

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (Photo: MGN Online)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Gov. Robert Bentley’s attorney today blasted the impeachment investigation into the governor, saying the special counsel running the probe has “hijacked” the process.

Ross Garber held a news conference in Montgomery Thursday afternoon and urged the House Judiciary Committee to regain control of the probe that is being led by Special Counsel Jack Sharman.

The governor’s attorney said he a filed an emergency motion with the House Judiciary Committee to establish a process that would ensure “due process.” He asked that the committee to meet and address the issue by Wednesday.

Garber said the governor is entitled to full due process, including details of the charges against him and the ability to cross-examine witnesses before the committee.

He said the process as it stands today couldn’t be “more bogus if you tried.”

Sharman has laid out a proposed schedule for issuing his investigation report. The report would be issued April 7 and Bentley would be expected to respond by April 11.

The special counsel told WHNT News 19 that he felt the governor had been given leeway far beyond due process. He says even allowing the governor to present to the House Judiciary Committee gives him an opportunity that other defendants, for example in the criminal system, wouldn’t get.

The two sides seem to differ on what role the House Judiciary Committee serves in the impeachment process. Sharman emphasizes the investigative duties. Garber frequently uses court terms – like due process and cross-examination – when detailing the responsibilities of the committee.

Garber said Alabama’s system is unique, and makes the House role more than advisory. An impeachment vote by the Alabama House would remove the governor from office. He could only return to office if he is acquitted in a trial by the Alabama Senate.

Garber was critical of the new schedule laid out by the special counsel and the lack of transparency in the investigation. He said the special counsel had failed to follow Alabama House rules, the judiciary committee rules and the state constitution.

Bentley is accused of corruption in office and neglect of duty. But Garber said they haven’t seen any charges. He pointed out only two governors since 1929 have been impeached and both of those men had been indicted criminally before the impeachment.

The allegations against Bentley followed claims the governor had an affair with his former top political advisor Rebekah Mason and perhaps used state resources to facilitate that affair.

The governor is also being investigated by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the Alabama Ethics Commission, which is set to meet Wednesday and could release its report on Bentley’s conduct in office.

A spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee said the committee had no immediate plans to meet to discuss the due process motion filed by the governor’s lawyer.

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