Special grand jury finds no new charges warranted in Robert Bentley investigation

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Supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks announced Wednesday the investigation of former Governor Robert Bentley and others has concluded.

Brooks released the final report of a Special Grand Jury, empaneled in Montgomery County on July 11, 2016, that determined no additional charges against Bentley are warranted. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick accepted the report and dissolved the grand jury accordingly.

“Many of the allegations we investigated were not supported by the facts,” the report reads. “With respect to the other allegations, the facts did not constitute a crime.”

But the grand jury did point out several issues with Alabama’s current ethics laws. “We found a number of serious concerns about current state law that hinder successful prosecution,” the report read:

  • The ethics law does not cover non-spousal intimate or romantic relationships.
  • The law authorizes the governor to appoint the Secretary of Law Enforcement and does not prohibit the governor from initiating, directing, or receiving reports on criminal investigations for illegitimate political purposes.
  • State law does not prohibit non-government personnel from performing the work of a public employee while being paid by a private entity, a so-called “loaned executive” arrangement.

The report urged lawmakers to look into updating the laws as soon as possible.

“While this list is not exhaustive, the issues are sufficiently serious as to warrant the Alabama Legislature to revisit the Alabama Ethics Law and the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act as soon as possible.”

Nearly one year ago, on April 10, 2017, Bentley resigned following allegations he used state resources to cover up an affair he was having with one of his former aides.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler filed an ethics complaint against Bentley, to investigate whether any state resources were unlawfully used in the alleged relationship. Ultimately the investigation led the Alabama Ethics Commission to find probable cause Bentley violated ethics laws and campaign finance laws.

Upon his resignation Bentley was booked on two misdemeanor charges —one for failing to file a major contribution report and another for knowingly using campaign contributions for personal use. He plead guilty to both charges, each carried a $300 bond, and was sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation.

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