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It’s over: Bentley investigation ends

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

Like that troubled relationship you knew just wasn’t right, the Bentley investigation is finally over.

Supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks – who was called out of retirement to lead the investigation – announced that the Special Grand Jury empaneled to investigate the former governor and others has been dissolved after its members determined no other charges were warranted beyond those to which Bentley already pleaded guilty.

Read Kim Chandler’s full AP story HERE.

What’s important

I had three basic takeaways from this new conference:

  1. Investigators couldn’t prove that Bentley himself ever profited personally from all his questionable conduct;
  2. Others might have profited, but “they” (read: Rebekah Mason) were not covered by the ethics law at the time because “they” (a.) weren’t married to Bentley, and (b.) were no longer a state employee;
  3. There is some pretty questionable activity that the grand jury and prosecutors say is not prohibited by Alabama’s ethics laws (the Governor directing law enforcement to harass people, executives on loan to the Governor’s office).

The Politics 

  • The Bentley saga is still a potent political weapon in state politics. It’s probably most relevant in the Attorney General race, where challengers have tried to make Bentley’s appointment of incumbent AG Steve Marshall an issue.
  • Former AG Troy King said yesterday that “justice had been lost at the hands of Steve Marshall.”
  • Fellow candidate Alice Martin has repeatedly called the investigation a “sweetheart deal” from the “Bentley appointee” (that attack lost a bit of its sting when it was revealed Martin herself pursued Bentley’s appointment while leading the investigation).
  • I asked Brooks, whom Marshall appointed to direct the investigation after he recused, about the criticism yesterday.
  • “I’m used to getting criticism from people who say I’m too tough and from people who say I’m not tough enough,” she said.  “I cannot go outside the law and I cannot make up evidence.”
  • Pick’em odds on whether this intensifies the weaponizing of Bentley or puts it to bed.

What’s Next

  • I would expect the grand jury’s recommendations to make their way into the ethics code update that lawmakers are expected to tackle next term. (I’m not convinced some of it isn’t in there already, btw.).
  • As Kim Chandler noted in the press conference, one example of a grand jury recommendation later becoming law is the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban.

Also read: Melissa Brown for The Montgomery Advertiser, Mike Cason for, Mary Sell for the Decatur Daily.

Also watch: Jenn Horton for WSFA.

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