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What began as a sex scandal that cost him his 50-year marriage ended with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's (R) resignation Monday, hours after he pled guilty to two misdemeanor crimes.
Bentley's departure comes as the state House kicked off impeachment hearings Monday, the first time in state history the legislature began the formal process of removing the governor. Those hearings came after the Alabama Ethics Commission determined there was probable cause that Bentley had violated campaign finance rules.
"I've not always made the right choices, I've not always said the right things. Though I've sometimes failed, I've always tried to live up to the high expectations that people have of the person who holds this esteemed office," Bentley said.
Bentley's last several years fell far short of those expectations. After winning re-election in a landslide, Bentley's wife filed for divorce after she found incriminating text messages and recorded phone conversations between Bentley and his top political advisor.
In a 130-page report written for the House Judiciary Committee, a Montgomery lawyer found Bentley used his political position to cover up the affair, threatening staffers, firing the state’s top law enforcement official and using official vehicles to ferry the advisor, Rebekah Mason, around the state.
The report, which reads at times like a salacious romance novel, found Bentley even tried to use state law enforcement officials to break off the relationship.
Before resigning, Bentley appeared at the Montgomery County courthouse, where he was booked on two campaign finance violations: One involved a $50,000 loan Bentley made to his own campaign and failed to report on time. The other involved a $9,000 payment Bentley authorized from his campaign account to a lawyer on behalf of Mason.
Bentley will serve two years probation, perform 100 hours of community service and give up the balance of the money in his state campaign account. In return, the state attorney general will not pursue felony charges, according to Ellen Brooks, the prosecutor who oversaw the investigation.
Bentley apologized to his staff in a brief announcement in the state capitol's historic Old House Chamber.
"The consequences of my mistakes have been grievously unfair to you, my loyal and dedicated staff, and my cabinet and all of our agencies," he said. "I can no longer allow my family, my dear friends, my dedicated staff and cabinet to be subjected to the consequences that my past actions have brought upon them."
Bentley's family has largely shunned him since his divorce. The report conducted for the state House paints a picture of a deeply devout Christian man whose actions shocked and outraged his children.
Bentley will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who took the oath of office late Monday.
BREAKING: Kay Ivey sworn in as Alabama's governor after Robert Bentley pleads guilty to charges arising from alleged affair probe.— The Associated Press (@AP) April 10, 2017