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Alabama 'Luv Guv' Robert Bentley quits over relationship with aide

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announces his resignation Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The governor mistakenly sent his wife a text message that was intended for his alleged lover

Alabama's governor has quit over his relationship with an aide in one of the state's biggest political scandals.

Robert Bentley, a two-term Republican, stepped down as lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against him.

The tawdry saga has seen his suggestive text and phone messages with a former adviser splashed across media.

The state ethics commission last week found reason to believe he had committed four felony crimes involving possible misuse of state funds.

Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey, also a Republican, was sworn in to replace him shortly after his resignation.

Mr Bentley, a 74-year-old former Baptist deacon and dermatologist, was last week defying calls to step down, including from leaders of his own party.

But a 3,000-page report on Friday from the Alabama House judiciary committee's attorney said Mr Bentley had demanded state officials help him cover up an "inappropriate relationship".

He had also "encouraged an atmosphere of intimidation" to hide the scandal, according to the findings.

Mr Bentley insisted his relationship with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a former TV news reporter and married mother of three, was never physical.

But the report said security personnel had seen her "leaving the [governor's] office with her hair tousled and her clothing in disarray".

In texts between the governor and Mrs Mason, one from her phone said: "You handsome, wonderful, amazing, delicious, funny, sweet man."

Image copyright Montgomery County Sheriff
Image caption Mr Bentley had his mugshot taken by police on Monday

Mr Bentley, who was first elected in 2010, replied: "You are wonderful my sweet love. I love you."

In another exchange, the two discussed their desire to elope.

The governor also mistakenly sent his wife, Dianne Bentley, a text message that said, "I love you Rebekah".

In March 2014 Mrs Bentley secretly recorded an explicit phone conversation between her husband and a woman he addressed as Rebekah.

"When I stand behind you," he is heard saying in a recording that was leaked to local media, "and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts, and I put my hands (unintelligible) and just pull you real close. I love that, too."

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Mr Bentley had insisted his relationship with Rebekah Caldwell Mason was never physical

Mrs Bentley filed for divorce in August 2015, saying the 50-year marriage had suffered an irreparable breakdown.

Mrs Mason, whose husband also worked for the governor, resigned in March last year as the scandal emerged.

Mr Bentley's resignation does not draw a line under the scandal.

On Monday afternoon, he had his mugshot taken by Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

He has cut a plea deal to face two misdemeanour charges of campaign finance violations linked to the alleged affair.

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