BREAKING: Alabama Ethics Commission Refers Four Charges Against Governor Bentley To Prosecutors

BREAKING: After meeting for over nine hours straight behind closed doors, the Alabama Ethics Commission has voted overwhelmingly to formally refer four separate charges against Governor Robert Bentley to prosecutors. (Link, Link)

(Recap: We’ve previously covered the events leading up to this story here, here, here, and here.)

The scandal-ridden Republican Governor of Alabama is currently being investigated and threatened with impeachment, indictment, or some other form of investigation from at least four different groups (State Legislature, Attorney General, Federal Prosecutors, and Ethics Commission). Most of the various potential criminal charges are due to his illicit affair with a senior staffer, and the lengths that he went to in order to cover it up. Other allegations have to do with his appointment of Alabama Attorney Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate to replace Jeff Sessions, which happened while AG Strange’s office was actively investigating him on the other charges.

Tonight’s development in this case comes from the Ethics Commission’s investigation, which is due to four separate complaints, which were filed by Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s State Auditor.

Bentley at the hearing today. Credit: Montgomery Advertiser

The four charges as are follows:

First charge (3-1-1): Relating to ethics violations from using public resources to further a personal interest.

Second charge (4-0-1): Relating to using legal fees in an improper manner, in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. This stems from the use of Bentley’s campaign funds to pay for the legal fees of his paramour relating to the investigations into their affair.

Third charge (4-0-1): Relating to payments given to the senior staffer with which he had an affair (Rebekah Mason), due to the fact that they came from an illegally funded “dark money” group.

Fourth Charge (4-0-1): Referring to a loan that Bentley made to his own campaign outside the window of time in which a loan is legally permissible, a violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

All four charges are felonies, and would carry heavy fines and up to 20 years in prison.

The Ethics Commission acts as a grand jury in matters relating to ethics violations of public officials. They can choose to refer cases to either the local District Attorney or the state Attorney General. They have opted to refer all four cases to the local District Attorney. This makes sense, given the scandal surrounding the Attorney General’s office, as well as the ongoing investigation there. This will now be at least the fifth government agency involved into an ethics-related investigation into Governor Bentley.

This news breaks the same week that the House Judiciary Committee is moving forward on their impeachment proceedings. Their report is due to be issued in the next few days, and may involve additional charges. Rumors are circulating that Bentley is considering resigning to avoid impeachment, but he has consistently denied that those rumors are true.

It’s also worth noting that Jim Zeigler, the State Auditor that filed these now-successful complaints, is widely rumored to be running for Governor in 2018. It’s a pretty safe bet that his platform will revolve around running against corruption.

This story is breaking, and may be updated (credit: @lyman_brian).

UPDATE: Photo of Ethics Commission statement below.

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