Newly appointed Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall confirmed just after Valentine’s Day that Gov. Robert Bentley is the subject of a criminal investigation. Marshall recused himself from the case, but in the process has reinvigorated efforts by some state lawmakers to impeach the embattled chief executive.
Marshall, whom Bentley appointed to replace now-U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, released a statement headlined “Attorney General Steven T. Marshall Statement Regarding Status of Attorney General Office Investigation of Governor Robert Bentley,” in a single phrase confirming more about the criminal probe than former AG Strange had in months.
“In his letter of Nov. 3, 2016, Attorney General Strange requested that the House Judiciary Committee cease active interviews and investigation until necessary related work of the Attorney General’s Office has been completed,” Marshall’s statement explains.
Following that letter from former AG Strange, the committee — which is charged with vetting articles of impeachment — halted its proceedings. Committee chairman Rep. Mike Jones said that stopping the process was an effort to “work cooperatively” with Strange’s office to investigate allegations stemming from Bentley’s rumored affair with a top aide.
Bentley later appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate, a move that has some of the state’s Democrats and Republicans alike crying foul, and may have influenced Marshall’s decision to recuse himself and appoint an independent prosecutor to handle the Bentley probe.
“After meeting with the staff of the Special Prosecutions Division of the Attorney General’s Office concerning the status of a possible investigation of Gov. Bentley, I have determined to recuse myself from the aforementioned related work and have appointed former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks to serve as supernumerary district attorney leading the investigation,” Marshall’s statement continues.
Brooks served for 35 years in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, where she served as DA from 1993 to 2014.
“Ellen is an experienced prosecutor, handling a variety of matters throughout her career, and I am confident she will ensure that all the facts are pursued in this investigation,” Marshall’s statement reads.
Prior to being sworn in as AG, Marshall said he was not aware of any investigations into Gov. Bentley, and vowed to look into the matter during his first days on the job.
Despite Marshall’s announcement, Rep. Mike Jones has yet to schedule further impeachment hearings, although he has told members of the media that he believes the work of the committee will be completed by the end of the legislative session, likely late May.
However, Republican Reps. Corey Harbison and Randall Shedd are circulating new articles of impeachment they hope to pass without consideration by the Judiciary Committee — considered by some to be a real legislative longshot. But Shedd and Harbison say the time for action is now.
“Something has to give,” Harbison said. “Public trust toward all of us is at an all-time low. We have to get some answers.”