Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Why is Alabama "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley apparently planning a U.S. Senate run, when his plea agreement clearly blocks him from seeking "any public office"?

Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
Former Alabama governor Robert Bentley reportedly is contemplating a 2020 run for the U.S. Senate, even though his plea agreement on criminal charges plainly states that that he neither will seek nor serve in public office.

We reported last week that Bentley had traveled to a national governors conference in Washington, D.C., with Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- the former aide with whom he had an extramarital affair that ended his marriage of 50 years. We noted, however, that news outlets had described the plea agreement in varying terms -- and we had not seen the agreement -- so there was some doubt about what it actually says. That doubt no longer exists.

The agreement was reached on April 10, 2017 -- signed by Bentley, his lawyer William Athanas, Special Assistant Attorney General Eleanor Brooks, and Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart -- and at least two news outlets (Alabama Political Reporter and the Andalusia Star) posted links to the document at that time. We have embedded the plea agreement at the end of this post, and there no longer can be any doubt about what it says.

Item No. 4 in the plea agreement reads:

4. The Defendant will not seek or serve in any public office.

Item No. 6 reads:

6. The Defendant will waive any and all objections to venue and his right to appeal any issue.

Item No. 7 reads:

7. By signing this document, the Defendant represents that he is an adult; is competent to enter into this agreement and plead guilty; is satisfied with the work of his attorney; has been advised of his rights by his attorney; and that he intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily agrees with the terms of the Plea Agreement.  

In a Facebook post last week, State Auditor Jim Zeigler reported the following:

In January Bentley obtained clearance from the prosecutor to run for a federal office even though his plea agreement stated he would not run for office. The U.S. Senate is a federal office.

Who was "the prosecutor" who might have discussed such a clearance with Bentley? Brooks and Hart no longer are with the Alabama Attorney General's Office, so the answer to that question most likely would be the AG himself, Steve Marshall -- whom Bentley appointed to office. (And yes, that is a foul odor you are smelling.) If such a clearance was provided, it clearly violates the terms of the plea agreement. But then gain, Marshall clearly violated Alabama's PAC-to-PAC transfer law, but no one has held him accountable for that.

What are the take-home points from items No. 4, 6, and 7 above?

1. Bentley agreed to not seek, much less serve in, "any public office," which clearly covers both state and federal positions.

2. Bentley waived any right to appeal or contest terms of the agreement. If he had doubts about item No. 4, he should have raised them before affixing his signature to the document.

3. Bentley acknowledged that he is a competent adult, that he understood the agreement, and reached it with the advice of legal counsel, with which he was satisfied. Again, if Bentley had doubts about item No. 4, he should have notified his attorney and sought clarity from prosecutors. Bentley's signature indicates he knew what he was signing.

Alabama Political Reporter's article from two years ago leaves little doubt what the plea agreement says:

According to the plea agreement, Bentley will also pay back $8,912.40 to his campaign committee’s bank account, and then he will turn over the $36,912 left in his account to the state. He has agreed never to run for office again, has waived his rights to appeal and has promised to perform 100 hours of community service.

Bottom line: Regardless of what Bentley might be planning -- or any "clearance" Steve Marshall might have provided -- Alabama's "Luv Guv" is blocked from seeking any public office, at any level.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for digging up the plea agreement. I think a lot of people missed it the first time around.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you go soft on entitled, white-collar criminals who think the rules don't apply to them.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see any ambiguity in that plea agreement.

Anonymous said...

"Luv Guv" still thinks he did nothing wrong. Same with "Home Wrecky Becky." They both probably have sociopathic tendencies, certainly big-time narcissists.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:04 --

Powerful words. I worked for a world-class narcissist at UAB, and she ruined my career. A co-worker warned me a few years earlier about this woman's dangerous tendencies -- and the co-worker proved to be right on target.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Jim Zeigler for speaking out on this. He has stood up to Bentley all along.

Anonymous said...

Bentley must have big-time dirt on certain politicos, including Steve Marshall.

Anonymous said...

Great job, Legal Schnauzer, for accessing a copy of the official plea agreement. The words are plain and simple: "The Defendant will not seek or serve in any public office." On the face of this official plea agreement, it's crystal clear Bentley that "may not seek or serve in any public office." What part of the words "may not seek" and may not "serve in any public office" do they not understand? This is a typical example of how politicians and corrupt public officials think they do not have to obey the law, or a simple contract with the state, whenever they decide to act to the contrary. To prevent Bentley from breaking this agreement, which is a contract between him and the state, here's where this needs to go. First, research the legal authority of a prosecutor to unilaterally waive or agree to change a material terms of a plea agreement that, in the original instance, had to be approved by a court. How can a subsequent prosecutor waive or agree to change a material condition of a plea agreement that was previously approved and judicial ratified by a court. If a later prosecutor can just go into office and then alter, change, or modify plea agreements that courts previously approved. Why require that a plea agreement, to be enforceable, must be approved by a court, if a subsequent prosecutor can just go back and nullify any term of the court-approved agreement? To be sure, it is a criminal-law catechism that prosecutors have absolute discretion to decide who to investigate and who to prosecute and what to prosecute some one for. But "prosecutorial discretion" only goes so far. After a prosecutor files a charge, and the defendant appears and then agrees to a plea agreement with the prosecutor's office, that plea agreement, in order to become lawful, valid, and binding on both parties, must be approved by the court. So, if a prosecutor has lawful "discretion" to later turn around and alter, amend, modify, waive, or outright NULLIFY any term or condition of a prior court-approved plea agreement, then why even require a judge to approve the plea agreement between the defendant and the state? (That's another important point, the plea agreement, once approved, is not a contract between the defendant and the prosecutor, it's a contract between the defendant and the state.) Secondly, I suspect there may be case law on whether a prosecutor actually has the legal or statutory authority to just alter, modify, or nullify at whim any prior court-approved plea agreement/contract. That's the key to the legal issue here: the prosecutor's legal authority to unilaterally alter or nullify a prior court-approved plea agreement between the state and the defendant. Finally, this Ala. AG's notion that because Bentley is running for a federal office, he's free as a bird to violate a plain condition of his contract with the state, is absolutely absurd. An election for a U.S. Senate seat is still a statewide election and the so-called "federal office" belongs to the state of Alabama. Each state is given two U.S. senate offices to fill. The AG's rationale ignores the fact that a U.S. Senate seat, just like a state governor's seat, are both a "public office." Schnauzer, please stay on top of this story. There needs to be a lawsuit challenging the AG's legal authority to unilaterally change, modify, and/or nullify a plain, obligatory term of a plea agreement.

Anonymous said...

@9:16 --

Maybe Bentley knows what really happened to the late Mrs. Marshall, that hers was not a natural death.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:04 --

I think you make a very important point, that this was an agreement reached under the auspices of the court. It seems that it could not be altered without court approval, and it certainly appears no prosecutor could unilaterally change it.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is an interesting Facebook reaction from Jill Simpson re: today's "Luv Guv" post:

Roger has a good story up about how Lov Gov Bentley is going to get to run for Senator in 2020 if we don't as progressives demand AG Marshall uphold the agreement that Lov Gov can' t run for public office ever again which is the deal Marshall bunch is trying to say is over now in Republican circles and he can run again We hear from our republican sources that the plan to do this was started at the very beginning with AG Marshall and Lov Gov Bentley. See once he finished his sentence the judge has zero control over Bentley is what republicans are saying amongst themselves. I am not sure about that since it was in his agreement but nevertheless it does not matter it appears the plan was this all along. As we have said over and over we are living in a lawless state where laws don't apply because AG Marshall got his job crookedly cutting a deal with Bentley. This is the never ending story of the Endless Love story of Rebekah Mason and Lov Gov Bentley. I might add I heard lots of pictures captured of them in DC wining and dining to get support for his run. I hear both republican and democrats operatives took lots of photos.

Anonymous said...

I recall commenters getting on your case for running a photo of Becky Mason, with her husband and kids, outside their church. The theme was that you were supposed to be concerned about how this might impact the kids. Well, it seems clear now that Becky Mason herself isn't concerned about how this might affect her kids, so why should anyone else?

The woman has no shame.

legalschnauzer said...

@3:49 --

Here is the post, photo, and comments you probably were thinking of:


Anonymous said...

Preventing Smith from seeking public office "would allow political considerations to enter into the prosecutor's charging calculus" and would restrict "the foundational right of voters" to choose their representatives. "A prosecutor's charging discretion is a background principle that does not entitle a prosecutor to impair elections". "Nor does the right to enter plea bargains-or the related need for efficient resolution of criminal prosecutions- justify this bar-to- office provision"

legalschnauzer said...

@8:12 --

I don't understand your comment:

* First of all, who is "Smith"?

* What law are you citing?

* Bentley's own lawyer apparently does not agree with you because he signed the agreement, and his client signed it.

Anonymous said...

July 26, 2018 Michigan Supreme Court People v Smith Docket 156353 State Senator Virgil Smith
cited US Supreme Court Town of Newton v Rumery and Davis v Grossmont Union High School District
Just saying it might allow Bentley an Avenue.