|"Luv Guv" Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, contrary to his sworn deposition testimony, ordered investigations of Web-based journalists, according to a report from attorney, businessman, and Facebook blogger Donald Watkins. In fact, Watkins says Bentley's attacks on him went beyond personal matters to targeting at least one of his businesses.
As we reported yesterday, Bentley admits in his deposition that he met with a cabinet member at least three times about investigating Watkins and me, as the two journalists who reported on the governor's extramarital affair with adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason (and related scandals) for roughly seven months before the mainstream press rose from its slumber on the story. (A transcript of the deposition is embedded at the end of this post.)
The cabinet member was former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) secretary Spencer Collier, who brought the wrongful-termination lawsuit for which Bentley was deposed. Bentley acknowledges, under oath, meeting with Collier multiple times to discuss possible investigations of Watkins and me -- apparently on the grounds that accurate journalism was seen as a "threat" to the governor.
Bentley suggests that he never ordered any investigations, but Collier took it upon himself to proceed because the governor felt "threatened." Watkins says in his latest post, published yesterday and updated this morning, that is false. From the Watkins post, titled "Surviving Hatred In Alabama":
Online journalist Roger Alan Shuler published an article [yesterday] reporting that former Alabama governor Robert Bentley ordered the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (“ALEA”) to open a criminal Investigation on Shuler and me for exposing his marital cheating and public corruption scandal with his lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Bentley was also the Chief Magistrate of Alabama when the order was given, but he provided law enforcement officials with no evidence that Shuler or I had engaged in any wrongdoing.
To his credit, then-ALEA Chief Spencer Collier refused to open the criminal investigation Bentley requested. Bentley later fired Collier.
In March 2017, Collier confirmed to me that Governor Bentley requested a criminal investigation that targeted me. Bentley's June 23, 2018 deposition testimony in Collier's wrongful termination case affirms this fact.
Watkins and I are pretty much on the same page, but I read Bentley's deposition testimony a bit differently than does Watkins. I understand Bentley to be stating, under oath, that he did not order an investigation, but he discussed it with Collier, who moved forward of his his own accord. Watkins, as I understand it, essentially says Bentley lied under oath -- and in doing so, Watkins breaks two important pieces of information:
(1) Collier told him more than a year ago that Bentley requested a criminal investigation of Watkins -- and, presumably, of me, too. Collier has stated publicly that Bentley used ALEA as a political tool;
(2) Collier refused to open the criminal investigations that Bentley requested.
As for me, I believe the Watkins/Collier version of events over anything Bentley might say -- under oath or not. Remember this statement from Bentley in a December 2015 interview with al.com's disappearing and discredited Chuck Dean, apparently referencing online reports from Watkins and me. Writes the discredited Dean:
Throughout the ordeal Bentley, reluctant to talk about the deeply personal issue, would only say it was a personal, family matter.
And he never addressed the unfounded rumors of an affair.
"The rumors were not true," said Bentley.
The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.
"There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.
Bentley said it's hard as a public official to address the kind of rumors that were being spread and he said he felt to directly address them would only serve in some cases to give them credibility.
Bentley said the rumors hurt many people.
"There were many people - my own family and there were a lot of other families - many people, people that I love, that I care about, they went through some difficult times because people were able to say whatever they wanted to say. They were just ridiculous. I don't know how anyone could ever believe them."
We now know the "rumors" were true -- and Bentley knew they were true at the time he spoke these words. -- with Chuck Dean licking his boots, like Donald Trump bowing before Vladimir Putin. This is a so-called "Christian" governor lying to the public about his own extramarital affair -- and he found a limp-wristed journalist who swallowed every word. (Have we mentioned that Chuck Dean is discredited, and he seemingly has disappeared from the journalism scene?)
So, while Bentley continues to prop up the Mason household, he reportedly did his best to ruin one of Donald Watkins' businesses. From the Watkins Facebook post:
Unlike Spencer Collier, John D. Harrison, then-Superintendent of the Alabama State Banking Department, went along with a separate Bentley order to place my Birmingham-based bank and me under heightened regulatory scrutiny. Working in concert with the FDIC, the State Banking Department launched a full-scale, coordinated "Blitzkrieg" investigation of Alamerica Bank and me that has been ongoing for five years. To provide political cover for this illegal regulatory activity, the State Banking Department encouraged the FDIC to take the lead in trying to run me out of the banking business.
As an accommodation to the State Banking Department, the FDIC trumped-up baseless allegations that I violated Regulation O with respect to a loan the bank made to one of my business partners and a loan that was made to one of my sons. Regulation O governs bank loans to executives and directors of the bank. I was chairman of the bank at the time these loans were made, but I had no role in their application process, underwriting, or approval.
In my case, the FDIC has repeatedly refused to recognize that both loans fell squarely within the well-known, published exceptions to Regulation O. This has not been the case with similarly situated bank officers and directors.
Where does the banking matter stand? Well, it's ugly, and provides evidence that Bentley is tied to a probe that is drenched in racism. Writes Watkins:
I formally answered the FDIC’s allegations and denied all of the charges, while asserting my affirmative defenses. My case is in front of an FDIC administrative law judge, but it has been stayed indefinitely.
My case will likely have to start over in light of a June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring the process used by federal agencies like the FDIC and SEC for selecting and assigning administrative law judges to be unconstitutional. I lodged the same objection to the selection of the administrative law judge in my FDIC case.
Based upon what is happening in Washington, the public knows that federal regulatory agencies have become convenient tools for imposing and enforcing political agendas and for administering retribution against targeted individuals. My case is no different.
In fact, the "non-public" agency files in this state/federal regulatory investigation of Alamerica Bank are filled with racially derogatory references to me. What is worse, another Birmingham, Alabama-based federal agency that is involved in a parallel investigation of the same two loans transactions has at least two reputed white supremacists embedded in the agency who are reportedly actively working on my case.. . .
Alamerica Bank is one of only nineteen African-American-owned banks in the United States. Within this group, we are the only one that state and federal regulators are actively trying to collapse (without any success to-date).
For the record, no judicial body has ever found that I have violated any state or federal banking industry rule or regulation.
All of this -- plus Bentley's deposition testimony and his blatantly false statements to Alabama's largest news organization -- raise a number of troubling questions:
(1) Should Bentley be referred for a perjury investigation related to his testimony in the Collier lawsuit?
(2) Did Bentley violate Alabama ethics law by ordering that state resources be used for his personal mission to investigate journalists who had repeatedly broken stories about scandals in his administration?
(3) While a grand jury has cleared Bentley of additional criminal charges in the overall Mason scandal, should he be referred for an ethics investigation related to his apparent orders regarding Watkins and me?
(4) Why would Alabama Republicans overwhelmingly support incumbent attorney general Steve Marshall, a Bentley appointee, in yesterday's primary runoff election? It seems to be widely understood in Alabama that Bentley is fundamentally dishonest and corrupt, and yet, voters support his appointee, whose estranged wife died under mysterious circumstances just a few weeks ago. Does that make a lick of sense?