|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
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.