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Alabama governor resigns, pleads guilty

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned Monday rather than face impeachment and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations that arose during an investigation of his alleged affair with a top aide.

In a remarkable fall, the mild-mannered 74-year-old Republican and one-time Baptist deacon stepped down as the sex-tinged scandal gathered force over the past few days. Legislators turned up the pressure by opening impeachment hearings Monday. Last week, the Alabama Ethics Commission cited evidence that Bentley broke state ethics and campaign laws and referred the matter to prosecutors.

“There’ve been times that I let you and our people down, and I’m sorry for that,” Bentley said in the old House chamber of Alabama’s Capitol after he pleaded guilty.

The violations were discovered during the investigation of his affair but were not directly related to it.

In court, Bentley appeared sullen and looked down at the floor. He stood up and said “yes, sir” in a gravelly voice as the judge read out the charges he was pleading guilty to.

One misdemeanor charge against Bentley stemmed from a $50,000 loan he made to his campaign in November that investigators said he failed to report until January. State law says major contributions should be reported within a few days. The other charge stemmed from his use of campaign funds to pay nearly $9,000 in legal bills for political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason last year.

“He did what he did, and he deserves now to be called a criminal,” said Ellen Brooks, a retired district attorney overseeing the state investigation.

The resignation and guilty plea were a dramatic reversal from the man who on Friday stood on the Capitol steps and said he would not leave office because he had done nothing illegal.

The plea agreement specified that Bentley must surrender campaign funds totaling nearly $37,000 within a week and perform 100 hours of community service as a physician. The dermatologist also cannot seek public office again.

Bentley’s successor is Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, who became Alabama’s second female governor.

“The Ivey administration will be open. It will be transparent. And it will be honest,” Ivey said.