How crazy with fury was Gov. Bentley when he became convinced that one of the first lady's assistants, Heather Hannah, had helped generate a tape recording of the "Luv Guv" gushing about the joys of fondling Mason's breasts and groping her nether regions? He sought to have Hannah arrested, apparently never considering that Hannah was only an accomplice, in the broadest sense of the word. The one who came up with the idea for the taping, and actually pushed the "record" button, was . . . Dianne Bentley. That means: (a) No crime likely was involved; (b) If a crime was involved, it would mean arresting not only Hannah, but Bentley's own wife, the state's beloved and much-admired first lady.
Consider these headlines: "Alabama's horn dog governor has his faithful wife of 50 years arrested for gathering evidence about his affair with aide who has glorious breasts."
We're talking "cray, cray" here, and those are just two instances from the House Judiciary Committee's (HJC) Impeachment Report that suggest the "Luv Guv" was operating in an "out there" state of mind. No wonder some family members thought he had dementia.
How was a recording device set up to catch Gov. Bentley in heated and lustful discussions with Mason about various parts of her apparently luscious anatomy. Here is background from the HJC report:
The recording came about through Ms. Bentley’s collaboration with her chief of staff Heather Hannah. Ms. Bentley had asked Hannah to help her make a recording that she could use to “catch” her husband and Mason in their affair. They had discussed various options, including ordering a miniature recording device over the Internet. That thought was dismissed, primarily due to concerns with having the device securely delivered to Ms. Bentley. Ultimately, Ms. Bentley came up with the idea to use her cell phone’s recording feature but asked Hannah to show her how to operate it.
Was "Operation Horn Dog" an immediate success? Not exactly. But when it worked, Mrs. Bentley hit a home run -- apparently with little or no help from Hannah:
Ms. Bentley made several efforts to capture Governor Bentley on the phone with Mason at the Mansion, but those efforts failed. 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 conversation begins with discussions of the weather but quickly moves to capturing Governor Bentley agreeing to extended commentary by Mason. Of particular note, prior to the conversation becoming more intimate in nature, is an extensive discussion about moving Wanda Kelly’s desk and rearranging the office. About halfway through the conversation, Governor Bentley engages in the now infamous monologue about how much he enjoys feeling Mason’s breasts and their need to lock the door to his office when engaging in certain activities.
As for the notion of arresting Heather Hannah, Bentley absolutely was serious about that. From the report:
Shortly after the August 5 intervention, Governor Bentley told Secretary [Spencer] Collier that he believed Heather Hannah had been responsible for making the recordings. He ordered Collier to find out whether there were criminal statutes that applied to Hannah’s suspected activity. He told Collier to be prepared to arrest Hannah if the tapes were released publicly. Collier went to his ALEA counsel, Deputy Attorney General Jason Swann, gave him a factual hypothetical about covert recording, and asked him to research the law to determine the applicability of any criminal statutes to the hypothetical. Swann provided Collier with copies of the relevant eavesdropping statute and discussed the law with him. Sometime later, Collier confided to Swann that the research he had asked him to do related to Governor Bentley and said “we’re looking into it.”
Gov. Bentley and Collier had a conversation on the same topic with Scott Lee, an SBI special agent who had agreed to become an "on-call investigator" for Collier:
Governor Bentley and Secretary Collier told Lee that the person they suspected had planted the recording device was a young woman who had served as Dianne Bentley’s assistant. They suspected that the young woman, as well as members of Governor Bentley’s family, might be in possession of the tapes. They also mentioned that Collier had paid a visit to a woman about the tapes on the night of the election. Bentley and Collier wanted Lee’s opinions about opening an investigation into the matter. . . .
|Dianne and Robert Bentley|
After Lee told Bentley and Collier that he would insist on seeing any investigation through to its conclusions, he was not asked to proceed with the investigation.
Alabama's primary criminal eavesdropping statutes can be found at Code of Alabama 13A-11-31 and 13A-11-33. The following, from Sec. 33, might have been central to any investigation of Heather Hannah:
(a) A person commits the crime of installing an eavesdropping device if he intentionally installs or places a device in a private place with knowledge it is to be used for eavesdropping and without permission of the owner and any lessee or tenant or guest for hire of the private place.
We are not in a position at the moment to research case law on this subject. But the statutory language suggests that Dianne Bentley, as an owner of the "private place," had a lawful right to install an eavesdropping device on the premises. That suggests the recordings were captured lawfully, and Heather Hannah likely would not be subject to a charge of possessing illegally obtained materials.
Our assessment? The governor of a state should be smart enough to read the eavesdropping statute and realize there likely was no case against Heather Hannah. That Bentley was determined to seek an investigation anyway, should raise serious questions about his fitness for office.
Alabama House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Report, Including Exhibits