One way or another, the days in office for Alabama’s “Love Guv” are numbered — or may have already run out. With a sex scandal escalating into the potential for felony prosecution, Republican governor Robert Bentley insisted last week that he would not resign from office, claiming he had committed no crimes. However, the ground shifted after a judge lifted an injunction on impeachment proceedings on Saturday. Now it looks like Bentley will resign today:

Multiple sources have confirmed to WHNT News 19 that Governor Robert Bentley will resign today, the same day a House committee began impeachment hearings.

Earlier today, we reported Bentley’s office was in negotiations to set specific terms of him stepping down.

They weren’t the only ones reporting on that possibility. Alabama Media Group reporter John Archibald reported this morning that Bentley’s attorneys are laying the groundwork for a resignation that could come within 48 hours, hoping to avoid the humiliation of an almost certain impeachment:

Sources in Montgomery say his lawyers have been involved in negotiations to step down from the governorship and plead to lesser charges, allowing Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey to step up as governor.

Sources believe he will resign the governorship by Wednesday.

The WHNT report on the immediate potential for a resignation was joined by similar reports from WBRC and WSFA in Alabama. The situation was still fluid this afternoon, and it remained unclear whether Bentley would commit to leaving voluntarily. “However, there is no guarantee that Bentley will definitely resign,” the WBRC/WSFA report noted. For the moment, though, the AP’s report seems to indicate that a decision has been made:

If you’re confused why Bentley faces this tough choice, be sure to read Jazz’ post from Sunday to catch up. Bentley has been accused of abuses of power, obstruction of justice, and misuse of state resources in order to keep an alleged affair quiet. The affair itself, if it took place at all (Bentley has denied it, although admitting to “mistakes in his personal life”), would certainly have caused him some embarrassment and political damage. If these charges are true, Bentley faces more than just the impeachment that is already in process — he could go to prison.

Republicans made it clear that they’re not going to run interference for him in the impeachment process. In fact, they’re demanding his resignation, or else:

Alabama’s Republican Party on Sunday called for Gov. Robert Bentley to resign, stepping up the pressure on the state’s chief executive as he battles an ongoing sex scandal.

In a resolution passed on Sunday, the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee said Bentley, a Republican, should immediately step down from office amid allegations that he abused his position of power to cover up an affair with a top adviser. …

“The Alabama Republican Party holds their elected officials accountable and demands the utmost integrity of office holders,” the committee said in a statement Sunday.

Archibald notes that Bentley often changes direction and might not follow through on resignation. The Atlantic’s David Graham quotes Archibald and advises readers to exercise some skepticism as well:

The proximate cause of Bentley’s downfall was not sexual misconduct itself. Following the old saw that the coverup is always worse than the crime, Bentley is accused to misusing state resources to try to hide his relationship with Mason, including using law-enforcement muscle to try to prevent the release of the tapes. The impeachment report released last week also lit into Bentley for being uncooperative. (The report lays out plenty of the semi-lurid details, at great length—more teen puppy love than X-rated.)

Even with the handwriting so clearly on the wall, Bentley might not choose to leave office gently. His office denied any negotiation on an exit, and Alabama Media Group’s John Archibald wrote, with understated wryness, “It is possible that Bentley, who has changed his mind often during his term, could change his mind.”

Such a reversal would be bizarre for a man facing felony charges. But then again, nearly everything about the Bentley scandal has defied explanation.

Maybe, but on Friday Bentley still had one card to play — an injunction by a court to stop the impeachment proceedings. That got tossed out the next day, which puts Bentley on the verge of a historical boot from office. Resignation’s easier to spin, and perhaps worth a trade with prosecutors. After impeachment, Bentley won’t have anything to offer in an attempt to plead down potential charges. According to the latest reporting, Bentley used that last bit of leverage to cut some sort of deal, and we will have to wait a bit to see what it bought him — if in fact Bentley follows through.

Update: Archibald has updated his article to report that the resignation will come before the evening. His resignation will come just after the state Attorney General filed documents with the court in the Bentley investigation:

Lawyers for Gov. Robert Bentley spent much of the day negotiating with prosecutors, and sources said the governor will step down this afternoon.

The governor was scheduled to meet with his staff before any announcement is made.

Prosecutors with the Alabama Attorney General’s office filed documents in Montgomery County Circuit Court, but the clerk would not immediately release them.

It is believed Bentley will plead guilty to lesser charges and resign to avoid stiffer penalties.

If true, it’s also predictable that Bentley would use his last remaining leverage before the legislature stripped it from him.

Update: Bentley got the deal from prosecutors he needed to stay out of prison:

The extraordinary agreement, hammered out over the weekend and throughout the day by lawyers for the Alabama Attorney General’s office and Bentley attorneys Chuck Malone and Cooper Shattuck, requires Bentley to repay the state for misused funds and perform community service.

In response, the state attorney general’s office will not pursue other felonies against Bentley, including those referred for prosecution last week by the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Bentley, as part of the deal, was expected to:

  • Resign immediately and leave public life.
  • Plead guilty to two campaign violations: converting campaign contributions for personal gain and failing to report campaign contributions.
  • Serve one year of probation.
  • Perform 100 hours of unpaid community service as a physician.
  • Repay the $8,912 his campaign spent on the legal fees of former aide Rebekah Mason, whose involvement with Bentley led to the charges against him.
  • Forfeit all the money in his campaign account, which is currently  $36,912. The money will go into state coffers.

In response, the state attorney general’s office will not pursue other felonies against Bentley, including those referred for prosecution last week by the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Here’s his statement after resigning and pleading guilty to two misdemeanors:

WBRC FOX6 News – Birmingham, AL

Bentley was booked into the Montgomery County jail after 4 p.m. on two charges: Failing to File a Major Contribution Report and Knowingly Converting Campaign Contributions to Personal Use.

When he appeared in a courtroom just before 5 p.m., the plea agreement was revealed. The former governor will be required to pay $2,000 in fines plus court costs, reimburse his campaign fund more than $8,000 one week from today (April 17), and must surrender all campaign funds to the state of Alabama, an amount said to be just less than $37,000.

In addition, he must serve 100 hours of volunteer service as a doctor, will never again be able to run for office in the state, and will waive his state retirement benefits.

Bentley pleaded guilty to the two charges and the judge sentenced him to two 30 day sentences which would run concurrently before suspending the sentence. This means Bentley will serve no time in jail.

Bentley talked a lot about prayer and sins. Had he been willing to do that in the beginning, he wouldn’t have found himself in this position today.