The Downfall of Robert J. Bentley
The impeachment and indictment of the Alabama governor
By Maddy Pritzl
The Progressive Teen Staff Writer
WHEN LOOKING AT THE SMILING MUGSHOT OF THE 74-YEAR-OLD, former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, one must ponder the path the man took to get to where he is today: currently facing two misdemeanor charges for ethical violations, and the target of a sex scandal taking the country by storm. His resignation on April 10 came after a yearlong impeachment investigation concerning campaign finance violations, an affair with one of his top aides, and the breakdown of a man once pegged as a possible presidential nominee.
The beginning of the end started on March 22, 2016 when Bentley fired Spencer Collier, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary. The firing came just days before the impeachment investigation would be launched, but the skepticism followed immediately. Bentley had fired Collier for improper use of state funds, but an audit found no truth to the statement.
Then, the bomb dropped.
It didn’t take long for Collier to lash out and claim that Bentley had been having an affair with his top aide, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Some speculate that the incompetence of Bentley’s technology usage is what led to his career crumbling to pieces. After all, it was the link between his iPhone and iPad that led to the sexual screenshots being released. Despite the fact that Bentley had a burner phone — or his “Rebekah phone” — there seemed to be a carelessness in his actions. Even Mason, with much less to lose, was much more hesitant when communicating with Bentley via iPhone.
“Despite the fact that Bentley had a burner phone — or his ‘Rebekah phone’ — there seemed to be a carelessness in his actions. Even Mason, which much less to lose, was much more hesitant when communicating with Bentley via iPhone.”
When Bentley and his former wife, Dianne, were still together, it could have been a 2015 text that signaled something was amiss in their relationship. An “I love you Rebekah” text sent to Dianne from Bentley’s phone was the tipping point. In August 2015, the two were divorced.
Interestingly enough, Bentley was once floated around as a potential Republican presidential nominee. Many assumed that his position as governor was just a stepping stone; that it wouldn’t be the end of his political career. But speculation began with the appointment of Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions. At the time, Strange had simultaneously been the Attorney General of Alabama and the man leading the impeachment investigation of Bentley. When Bentley announced his appointment of Strange to the Senate, many were outraged.
It’s almost cliché to see the steps that Bentley took in order to avoid a potential impeachment — the backroom deal, the warning from Alabama House of Representatives member Ed Henry, and the immediate downward spiral of Bentley’s professional and personal life.
The appointment of Strange was the last straw for many GOP members, causing an uproar. For years, Bentley had been protected by many of them, and some felt personal betrayal, as if they no longer needed to help or protect Bentley. Holding Bentley upon their shoulders had proved to gain them nothing and just help Bentley continue to live off lies and hide the truth. After all, Bentley had failed to learn everything during the investigation by continuing to fly Rebekah Mason around with him, and the appointment of Strange served as another red flag.
A 130-page report released earlier this month is what led Bentley to have one of the worst Mondays of his lifetime — a day that would lead to his resignation. The report detailed the fact that Bentley had asked his bodyguard to break up with Mason not once, but multiple times. The screenshots of text messages between Bentley and his wife, and then Bentley and Mason, revealed the personal aspects of their relationships. The timeline that followed the scandal was enough to align with the ethical violations of campaign finances being misused.
The puzzle pieces aligned, finally, for the first time in the yearlong investigation. The firing of Spencer Collier, the “Rebekah phone,” the screenshots, the appointment of Strange, a timely divorce from his wife of 50 years — it all made sense, for once. When Bentley woke up on Monday, April 10, he knew it was the end. And later that day, a resignation letter was signed and released. Hours later came the mugshots, and the end of Robert J. Bentley’s years of mischief and hidden truths were released. It was finally over.
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