Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Report on "Luv Guv" Bentley might be "salacious," but plea deal that apparently did not require withheld documents to be produced is a bad deal for Alabama

Gov. Robert Bentley
(From Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley negotiated a plea deal yesterday that required him to resign, while dropping four possible felony counts to two misdemeanors. That's a bad deal for Alabama, but it's even worse when you consider one member of the House Judiciary Committee, Chris England, has declared his work is done. That means the hundreds (maybe thousands) of documents the Bentley administration withheld from investigators -- plus numerous sworn interviews that were not granted -- likely will not see the light of day. If that happens, the public will never know the full extent of misconduct, even criminality, that apparently permeated the Bentley Administration.

Legislative and law-enforcement types, by signing off on the plea deal, are sending this message to future miscreants in public office: "If you think you are in trouble, go ahead and cover up and stonewall -- and you likely will get away with it."

The House Special Counsel made it clear in his report that Bentley, his staff, and his associates failed to cooperate with the investigation in any meaningful way. Now, Bentley is being rewarded for his intransigence -- and his lack of respect for the legislature's oversight duties.

Here is one puzzling question: Why were officials in such a hurry to cut a deal with Bentley. Prosecutors and legislators clearly had the upper hand, so why agree so quickly to a deal -- much less one so outrageously favorable to Bentley? I can think of only one answer: The process was driven at every turn by Republicans, and they were concerned that a trial or impeachment proceeding would damage the party "brand," whatever is left of it in the wake of the Mark Fuller, Mike Hubbard, Roy Moore, and now Robert Bentley scandals.

If Team Bentley had been required to turn over responsive e-mails, text messages, phone records, and financial records, how many GOP big-hitters might have been implicated? Our guess is "a lot." And that might have been the No. 1 driver behind the quick plea deal.

This much is certain: No deal should even have been considered until Bentley and his office had turned over all of the documents sought by the House Special Counsel -- and all individuals sought for interviews had testified under oath. I rarely agree with al.com on anything, but their editorial on the matter was right on target:

Bentley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges. But the stakes are too high for the pursuit of justice to stop here. This impeachment investigative report creates as many questions as it does answers.

It implicates many people in Montgomery beyond the governor. At times, it seems like everybody knew everything but nobody did anything.

Allegations were made in the report that many surrounding Bentley were complicit in the cover up.

They too should be held accountable for their actions. We know from the commission report Bentley, Mason and others refused to cooperate with the investigation. Subsequently, we still do not know the extent to which their alleged actions constitute criminal behavior. What more would we learn from their private messages and emails?

Birmingham attorney Eric L. Welch Guster, a legal analyst on cable news shows, was on the same page. Here is Guster, from Facebook:

LAW, POLITICAL PARTIES and RACE -- ALABAMA STYLE: Bentley got probation and his side piece got protected. That's how this works and has been this way for generations.

The GOP protected their own even in the face of sex, thievery, lies & nationwide embarrassment. Robert Bentley will remain free WITH A MISDEMEANOR while other politicians similarly situated received prison sentences and NEVER had an offer of probation. There was enough evidence on Bentley that a 13-year-old could take this case to trial and win. There was no need for a plea, except to protect him and his beloved boo-thang.

They claim justice is blind but we know better. It sees color, political party affiliation and the ties that bind them all together.

I am done with this foolery.

How blatant was the cover up in this matter? Here is a reminder: The Special Counsel's report makes it clear that The Bentley Bunch engaged in world-class stonewalling and foot-dragging. Reaching a plea deal -- without requiring that all documents be produced and interviews completed -- might mean that individuals who possibly engaged in criminal conduct could benefit from a cover up.

News outlets have described the impeachment report as "salacious," "lurid," and "damning." Imagine how bad it would look if the Bentley Administration actually had produced all of the documents and granted all the interviews investigators sought.

From the report: "Governor Bentley and the Office of the Governor did not meaningfully cooperate in the Committee’s investigation." That suggests Team Bentley likely caused the report to contain only a fraction of the misconduct that could have been revealed. A reader is left to wonder how many crimes remain under wraps because of the administration's determination to obfuscate. The report might be "salacious," but it's probably not nearly as salacious, or definitive, as it should be.

Was the Special Counsel amused by Team Bentley's determination to claim "privilege," squawk about "due process," and generally ignore, or fail to respond to, document requests and subpoenas? Not exactly. In fact, the report states that failure to cooperate with the investigation is a potential ground for impeachment. From the report:

Governor Bentley's failure to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation is potentially an independent ground for his impeachment. The Legislature is a coequal branch of government. The executive branch cannot ignore or treat in a cavalier fashion its constitutional duties, one of which is to participate fully and in good faith with the discharge of the Legislature’s constitutional duties. In this context, a “failure to cooperate” can either be direct – as in Governor Bentley’s refusal to respond to the authorized document requests of Special Counsel, to the Committee’s subpoena or for requests for testimony – or it can be indirect, as by using litigation tactics to delay and frustrate the Committee’s attempts to get the facts.

The Special Counsel provides nine examples of foot-dragging from Bentley and his staff or supporters:

(1) Governor Bentley asserted privilege in response to the subpoena
In his submissions to the Committee, Governor Bentley claimed that the Committee’s subpoena “attempts to subvert the attorney client privilege.” As counsel to the Office of the Governor has noted elsewhere, “public sector lawyers should keep in mind that they might someday be subpoenaed to testify about the substance of conversations with their clients.” Looking to the federal courts for guidance, in disputes arising from the Whitewater matter involving President and Mrs. Clinton, government lawyers were obliged to produce what might otherwise be reasonably construed as material protected by the attorney-client privilege.

(2) Blacked-out portions of documents produced.

A timeline created by Bentley and adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason is "heavily and arbitrarily" blacked out. Text messages between Bentley and the ACEGov dark-money nonprofit are "almost entirely" blacked out. The same is true regarding certain e-mail communications with the press regarding Mason's compensation. One key e-mail from Bentley to Mason was redacted in its entirety. From the report:

Despite requests, Governor Bentley failed to provide the Committee with a log of redactions made to documents produced and failed to offer any justifications for the redactions.

(3) Cell phones, state phones, and “burner” phones.
Despite multiple witnesses stating that Governor Bentley has consistently used three cell phones, Governor Bentley provided no documents responsive to the Committee’s request for a list of his cell phones or mobile devices. . . . The Committee noted that the document labeled OTG009338 (Ex. 5-CC) is a cover page for a selection of text messages from a phone that is referred to as “Governor state phone.” At a minimum, Governor Bentley’s “state phone” was in the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor.

(4) Mason’s state email account.
Governor Bentley has similarly claimed that the Committee’s request for a copy of Rebekah Mason’s email account . . .  “seeks production of information that is outside of the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor.” However, the documents he produced to the Committee indicate that Rebekah Mason was in fact assigned a State email account. . . .

Rebekah Mason’s State email account is in the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor, and responsive emails should have been produced.

(5) Governor Bentley’s email accounts.
The Committee subpoenaed information related to the email accounts used by Governor Bentley. Governor Bentley objected that the request “seeks information outside the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor.” He continued: “As has been reported in the press, the Governor does not maintain a State of Alabama email address.”

Governor Bentley’s statement appears to be inconsistent with emails that were included in the documents produced. Those emails show that Governor Bentley routinely used his “comcast.net” email address to send and receive official State communications, including emails marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive.” This portion of the investigation is relevant to the Committee’s inquiry. As illustrated by the FBI investigation of former Secretary of State Clinton during the recent presidential campaign, the use by senior executive branch officials of private or undisclosed email accounts for official or sensitive information can raise significant concerns. Governor Bentley’s email accounts should have been identified and responsive emails produced.

(6) Visitor Logs to the Governor’s Mansion.
The Committee subpoenaed information related to Rebekah Mason’s visits to the Governor’s Mansion or to Wynfield Estates Governor Bentley objected that this request is “overly broad, unduly burdensome and harassing.” However, a simple electronic search of the access logs for those facilities would easily yield the requested documents and information.

(7) Mason’s compensation information.
Governor Bentley provided invoices from RCM Communications, Inc. to Bentley for Governor, Inc. for only five months: January, February, and December 2015, and January and March 2016. Public records show that Bentley for Governor, Inc. paid Mason throughout 2015, after the campaign was over. In addition, Mason has stated publicly that she was paid by ACEGov in 2015. The Committee sought, without success, (1) the complete set of invoices for the period of time requested and (2) all other documents related to Mason’s compensation.

(8) Unedited State aircraft records.
Governor Bentley produced the publicly available “State Aircraft Usage” documents for January 2015 through August 2016. However, he has also produced a chain of internal emails . . . that indicates that members of Governor Bentley’s staff routinely review and amend “flight log records” before they are “post[ed] to the Governor’s website.” In fact, the documents labeled show after-the-fact red-line edits that were made to the State Aircraft Usage document for the Fourth Quarter of 2015 before it was made public. Such documents and communications were clearly comprehended by the Committee’s request but were not provided.

(9) Refusal to testify under oath.
On October 24, 2016, the Committee, through Special Counsel and pursuant to Amended Committee Rule 6, sent to the Office of the Governor notices for the transcribed testimony under oath of Governor Robert J. Bentley, Zach Lee, Wesley Helton and David Byrne. Despite follow-up requests, the noticed persons have declined to testify.

In the end, Team Bentley's stonewalling almost makes Richard Nixon and his staff of crooks look forthcoming by comparison. For now, the public is left to only guess at the misconduct, even criminality, that the Bentley Bunch has covered up.

Alabama House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Report, Including Exhibits


Anonymous said...

Just so we don't forget, can you compare Don Siegelman's treatment vs that of Robert Bentley. Just disgraceful that he gets to walk away with shame as his only punishment (assuming shame is part of his repertoire)

legalschnauzer said...

@7:53 --

So many differences. Maybe the biggest was that the Siegelman case wound up in federal court (not state), with a Bush-appointed "hanging judge." Bentley's case was controlled at state level by members of his own party.

Siegelman and Scrushy were forced to turn over all kinds of information in discovery, none of which pointed to a crime, and Bentley withheld or redacted much of his discovery material, likely covering up crimes.

Siegelman and Scrushy faced charges on alleged acts that were almost a full year past the statute of limitations.

The biggest punishment for Bentley was having to have his mugshot taken. No wonder he's in good spirits.

Democrats, nationally, should be raising a fit over this. It's grotesque.

Anonymous said...

Bentley again shows a total lack of integrity.

Anonymous said...

How was Cooper Shattuck allowed to ignore discovery requests/subpoenas and then still help negotiate Bentley's plea deal?

Anonymous said...

John Archibald said on Rachel Maddow last night that Alabamians could not handle the expense of a Bentley trial etc. But I guess they can handle picking up the tab for Luv Guv to fly his whore all over the nation?

Archibald falsely got credited with breaking the story and proved, once again, that he is a right-wing tool.

Anonymous said...

A big thank you, Mr. Schnauzer. I think you were the first to show what a bad deal this Bentley plea was, and now others are picking up on it. Needs to become a national story.

legalschnauzer said...

I should point out that my concern is not just the "punishment," which is absurd, but the fact he was allowed to plea while still withholding documents that should have been turned over. He's covering up crimes, but that is the way GOP wants it.

Anonymous said...

How big a role did Steve Marshall, Bentley's AG appointee, play in this farce?

Anonymous said...

So, they withheld "Home Wrecky Becky's" state email account? That alone probably would have produced evidence to send several folks to prison.

Anonymous said...

From Alabama Political Reporter this morning, quoting Ellen Brooks who was supposed to be leading up prosecution of Bentley:

An investigation may be conducted into Mason or others and their involvement in the Governor’s Office, Brook said Monday. According to the report from House Special Counsel Jack Sharman, Mason had a strong grip on policy and political power in the Governor’s Office during her relationship with Bentley.

“The other subjects that may appear will be followed up,” Brooks said. “I cannot comment on any particular people at this time.”

Brooks also said there were “other matters” that are still open with the Attorney General’s Office and other law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI.

legalschnauzer said...

Brooks' statement sounds encouraging, but I doubt any of that will happen. Don't know what happened to the feds on this, although KremlinGate probably put everything on hold involving DOJ.

Anonymous said...

Aren't they doing this ass-backwards? I thought they were supposed to work plea deals with underlings, so they would testify against the guy at the top. Here, they are starting with a plea deal for the guy at the top. Is he going to testify against underlings, against Home Wrecky Becky?

Anonymous said...

Cooper Shattuck is a candidate for president-elect of the Alabama State Bar. Shows what a fraud that organization is.


Anonymous said...

Hey Roger, you big cheese Dick!

How does it feel to be vindicated!? You broke this story, you lead to this happening and you are the one we need to thank for this corrupt prick being out of office.

Why no public love from the MSM? I dont understand why you are not getting any credit or citation for breaking this story WIDE open!?

Anonymous said...

@10:00 -- Saw that comment from Archibald about "expense" of a trial on Maddow Show last night. Made me want to spew. Funny how that never was an argument against a trial in the Siegelman matter -- or Langford, or McNair, or McLain or Schmitz . . .

legalschnauzer said...

@11:16 --

I don't think the lack of recognition from MSM is a surprise. They got their ass kicked by a one-man blog. That's pretty embarrassing. It also shows that they are becoming more and more irrelevant with each passing day. It's human nature not to trumpet events that make you look bad. And the Bentley story makes the MSM look very bad.

Anonymous said...

Schnauzer, what do you know about Ivey's long-rumored sexuality? Could she be Alabama's first (known) gay governor?

Some of the rumors center around a female partner at Bradley Arant. That could sure be interesting given that firm's history with the Alabama governor's office.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it's time for you to see if you can find out what the Luv Guy would not provide. Have you ever learned who else was in that plane with him? Even though he's no longer in office, a lot of people still are who might be just as corrupt.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:55 --

Funny you should ask about the plane story. I'm planning to run that in a day or so. Actually, I've had the information for a while now, and it keeps getting bumped by other stories or personal legal fires. But it will hit the presses very soon, I promise.

Anonymous said...

Since Mr Becky Hoe Wrecky is still a highly compensated state employee can he book a stay at the newly renovated Gulf State Park beach front mansion? Then Becky and the doctor can join him along with the rest of the ACEGov folks and they can make a family values party of it..

legalschnauzer said...

@11:41 --

Sounds like you are doing some good reporting yourself. Other than Donald Watkins, I've not heard anyone say a positive thing about Kay Ivey. I've heard the gay thing, but haven't turned over any rocks on it yet, but the Bradley Arant angle certainly is interesting. You know how I hate to unmask Bradley Arant lawyers. Please keep me posted if you can.

When you mention the possible Bradley Arant angle, it makes me wonder if Kay Ivey could be a Riley puppet. Also makes me wonder if the Riley/BCA/Canary tag team was pushing for Bentley to go quickly, so they could have a Kay Ivey puppet in the gov's chair.

Isn't there also a rumor that Ms. Kay has a drinky problem?

Anonymous said...

Why did the Alabama Supreme Ct. let the Bentley impeachment hearings go ahead. I'm betting its because the pro-Riley faction on the court (Jim Main) etc. wanted it to move forward so they could get rid of Bentley. I'm betting Riley, Canary, BCA etc. were all behind this.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:41 --

I think you nailed it. This was about the corporate GOPers (Riley/Canary etc.) taking back power from a "faith" GOPer, whose horn dog tendencies had become a huge embarrassment for the party.

The corporate types know how to keep their affairs under wraps -- or, at least, they think they do. They probably were appalled that Bentley was such a failure at keeping his affair hidden.

Anonymous said...

I think Bentley had at least two big strikes against him. Otherwise Bentley and the rest of his maladministration would have had all the help necessary to make this all go away quietly.

Bentley's two self inflicted strikes:

#1: Bentley failed to save Hubbard's bacon when it hit the fire.

#2: Bentley (and his administration) apparently largely homecooked the $800 million taxpayer bonded debt build prisons and save money scheme.

In both cases it appears that Bentley was running against the plans of the Alabama Republican deep state. Once it became publicly obvious Bentley was in effect operating a derp state, the Alabama Republican deep state made Bentley own his stink finger.

legalschnauzer said...

@5:29 --

You make a number of interesting points. And you have some nifty lingo to make them with. Is there such a thing as a "derp state"? Not sure I want to know what "stink finger" means. Hah!

e.a.f. said...

I'm sure the paper shredders are working over time all over Alabama.

Not much will get out because of that and the deal. There was just too much at stake here. Bentley was stupid. No one in power keeps up affairs like this with so much at stake. He obviously could not be controlled so this is the best way to get rid of him and keep the "brand" alive in Alabama. In my opinion, there most likely is a hell of a lot more to all of this and the million 'becky" and her company received. I'm sure she and the governor will part ways. He is no longer of any use to her and her company. Perhaps Bentley is suffering from some sort of dementia. A long trial would have also been very difficult for the former Mrs. Bentley and her family.

For some they may have wanted to cover up a lot of things and if Bentley had continued to stone wall it was going to take time and money to get rid of him, this way he is gone and the next one gets to take over.

By the way who becomes governor now? What is their game? I know how things work in Canada when a Premier (governor equalivent) resigns. My understand about American politics is that a Lt. Govenor takes over, but then if they do who replaces that person? just curious.

We just don't have such messy things in Canada, we have corruption O.K. and its most likely bigger than Alabama's, but that divorce stuff, we are way better at keeping it under wraps. I live in what is considered by many to be the most corrupt province in Canada, but hey, we've got an election! and trust me there won't be any erections reported.

Really this would be a good time to write a move script or a book about it all.

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, the days of "hot chicks" taking Bentley's phone calls probably are over. I've got a post tomorrow about the mystery "hot chick" who accompanied Bentley (and RCM and hubby) on state plane to Trump Inauguration. She looks a lot like Home Wrecky Becky.

e.a.f. said...

Lawyers, Guns, and Money blog has an interesting post up by Eric Loomis, What are you doing Alabama.

As I understand it they blame 'beck" the girlfriend for the closure of the offices which granted picture I.D. and the impact it had on African-American voters. Another interesting point of view on the whole matter of the resignation.

Anonymous said...

Alabamian's state motto, "WE DARE DEFEND OUR RIGHTS", at no time before now has ever been subjected to such a more lawful and legal purpose for "we the people" to demand the exercising of our 1st amendment right, thru "redress of grievances" that issues ongoing be formally and officially investigated until a resolve and final conclusion.

Insulting publicly the minds of "we the people" while at same time making mockeries
of the very constitution[s] that provided official offices extensive powers and authorities to perform and/or conspire to act in clandestine fashion[s] while in their official capacities at same time acting color of law and subsequently covering up criminal activities to protect the more affluent engaged, but paid for on the very same Alabamian's backs and shoulders, those silenced without voices; otherwise should they had ever been heard from publicly, the differences made!

legalschnauzer said...

e.a.f. --

Thanks for heads up on Lawyers Guns and Money blog (love that title). Will check it out. Yes, evidence in investigation show that Home Wrecky Becky ordered closure of DMV offices in heavily black areas. She sounds like a real charmer.

Anonymous said...

The derp state is a state of being.

A recent example of the usage- read the short article associated with the title:
Today in the Derp State

Anonymous said...

I didn't refresh before posting and I see someone else just referenced LGM blog.

e.a.f. said...

A. 10:47 pm Ya, its one of us Canadian readers. Given I live in the most corrupt province in Canada, British Columbia, I like to read about other places which have the odd problem. Granted we do have decent health care and social programs, there is still much room for improvement. but hey we never had a premier that I can recall who was like the governor of Alabama. Quess our politicians are a tad more discrete.

Reading Lawyers, Guns and money and L.S. is a whole lot better than watching t.v.

Anonymous said...

hey eaf From what I hear Manitoba also passed up Quebec as the most corrupt province!

We are infested with what we call the "good old boys club" or GOB Club, what do you all call it up there?

e.a.f. said...

GOB Club: just politics as usual.

In B.C. its the GOG club. There are some boys in the club but a lot of the club are adult women. Canada being a tad more progressive, we have a lot more females in politics and the Premier of B.C. is a woman and she is in a whole different league. She and her political party ran up a $100 billion debt. THAT TAKES work and we only have 5 million people to pay it off, so yes Alabama is corrupt but British Columbia Canada is worse, in my humble opinion and we certainly surpass Manitoba.

of course as with Alabama which has Roger and L.S. British Columbia has a number of bloggers who also deliver the truth and expose the scandals. Long may Roger and the rest of the scandal revealing bloggers live. They protect our democracy.

Anonymous said...

Feel free to drop a few of the best BC blogger links here. You never know when someone in Alabama needs to check into the BC political dirt. These bastards and bitches have been known to engage in cross pollination.

legalschnauzer said...

Sorry to sound clueless, but what is a BC blogger?

Anonymous said...

BC = British Columbia