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Alabama court allows release of evidence against governor

(Reuters) - An Alabama state court on Friday rejected Governor Robert Bentley’s request to block a legislative committee from releasing evidence about wrongdoing stemming from his relationship with a former aide to be used for impeachment proceedings.

FILE PHOTO: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks during a news conference in Mobile, Alabama July 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo

A Montgomery County State Court judge was still hearing arguments on Friday evening over the governor’s motion to halt impeachment proceedings in the Alabama House of Representatives. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin the process on Monday.

Bentley, who is accused of using state resources for personal use, has denied any wrongdoing and has refused to step down, as demanded by top political leaders.

Bentley’s troubles began last year when recordings surfaced of him making suggestive remarks to a former senior adviser, Rebekah Mason, before his wife of 50 years filed for divorce in August 2015.

Bentley has denied having a physical affair with Mason, who is married. She resigned as questions about the pair’s relationship began to dominate Alabama politics.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Ethics Commission found that Bentley probably violated ethics and campaign finance laws.

The Judiciary Committee’s report on Friday accused Bentley of ordering state law enforcement officers to track down copies of an embarrassing recording that suggested an affair with the Mason. It also accused him of retaliating against an official who discovered the relationship.

The committee plans to begin its impeachment process on Monday. The panel’s process would lead to a recommendation to the full House on whether to impeach.

Bentley remained defiant at news conference on Friday.

“Once again, let me say, I do not plan to resign,” he told reporters without taking questions. “I have done nothing illegal. If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not.”

The Ethics Commission on Wednesday said it found that Bentley had accepted a contribution and made a loan to his campaign outside the legal time frame, and that he used campaign funds to pay the legal fees of Mason, local media reported.

The commission has declined to disclose the evidence of its finding because it was referring it to the Montgomery district attorney’s office, which could bring criminal charges against the governor.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler