By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on June 20, 2019
Deposition testimony from former Gov. Robert Bentley and former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Chief Spencer Collier in a recently settled lawsuit between the two men confirmed that Bentley viewed me as a “political enemy" and asked Collier to investigate me for criminal wrongdoing as a means of discrediting me.
The other online journalist who was targeted for destruction is Roger Shuler. Schuler and I published a series of articles in 2015 that exposed Gov. Bentley’s secret love affair with his mistress and lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Once First Lady Dianne Jones Bentley confirmed that Rebekah Mason was her husband’s paramour, she sued Gov. Bentley for a divorce and exited their marriage. Gov. Bentley had already exited the marriage, emotionally and otherwise. He was hopelessly in love with Rebekah Mason, a married mother of three children who served as his senior political advisor. Mason's sexual seduction of Bentley gave her complete control of the governor’s office.
Roger Shuler’s Recent Articles Expose Bentley’s Violations of Law
Roger Shuler published two recent articles that exposed Bentley’s sinister and unlawful plan to use federal and state resources to launch criminal investigations against Shuler and me in retaliation for our news reporting on the Bentley-Mason love affair and sex scandal.
Bentley was not worried about the state’s mainstream news media organizations because he regarded them as too weak, too compromised, and too afraid to report on his “sex-for-power” scandal. He was right. These media outlets did not join the fray until seven months later when audiotapes surfaced of phone sex between Bentley and Mason.
Shuler’s July 17, 2018 article reported the deposition testimony of Bentley. According to his testimony, Gov. Bentley felt threatened by my articles. Here is what he had to say on this point:
“Spencer and I talked two or three times about all these things that had transpired, you know, the things that were on blogs and things like this. The thing about Donald Watkins, so much of that had been fed to him by, obviously, somebody, and so he was one of the ones that was putting out some of this material that I felt was somewhat threatening. So Spencer told me -- I remember on three occasions, Spencer said, "Now, Governor, you're not telling me to investigate this, because I don't know how they investigate things," but he said, "I am going to investigate this." He investigated -- I don't know how much they did on Donald Watkins, I don't know what they looked into on it, I don't know what they used, but he was one of the ones that we talked about. The guy at Legal Schnauzer, whatever his name is, he was one of the others. I also gave Spencer some e-mails from my former accountant that Spencer felt like were extortion. So Spencer investigated some things. I don't know exactly how much was investigated, though.”
Bentley lied in his deposition when he claimed that he did not know what became of the investigations. They, in fact, continued.
Roger Shuler’s July 17th article links to the entire Bentley deposition for the convenience of his readers.
In his June 19, 2019 article, Shuler presents Spencer Collier’s version of the same events. According to Collier’s sworn deposition testimony:
“Bentley had, and continues to have, a pattern and practice of using ALEA equipment, facilities, and labor for his own personal reasons, including using and attempting to use ALEA law enforcement officers to try to dig up dirt on people that Bentley disliked or became upset with.”
When asked to elaborate, Collier stated:
“Governor Bentley on several occasions requested either myself or special agents -- other special agents either in executive or protective services, dignitary protection, to access law enforcement-sensitive databases to obtain information on individuals that he viewed were political enemies of his….
Governor Bentley requested myself and another special agent to try and gather information on Donald Watkins. He also requested it on a blogger out of Shelby County. I don't know the gentleman -- recall the gentleman's name, he ran a blog.
On another occasion, the governor asked us to use law enforcement sensitive information to discredit Donald Watkins. I don't know Donald Watkins, I didn't know him. I don't necessarily know what it was about, but obviously Mr. Watkins had said some negative things about the governor, and the governor wanted us to discredit him in general. I again explained to the governor that NCIC, ACJIS, all of that was law enforcement sensitive, and we had to have criminal justice purpose to utilize it.”
Spencer Collier was right about the use of the federal NCIC criminal database and state ACJIS information system for political and personal reasons. It is a crime to use these databases for political and personal reasons .
In 2000, former Jefferson County Sheriff Jimmy Woodard and Birmingham Attorney Albert Jordan were charged, tried, and convicted in federal court for using the NCIC and ACJIS databases for political and personal reasons. Their convictions were upheld on appeal.
As evidenced by his deposition testimony, Gov. Bentley engaged in the same politically motivated and retaliatory conduct in 2015. Yet, Bentley was not prosecuted by federal or state law enforcement authorities for these criminal acts.
Spencer Collier Refused to Investigate Watkins, but Others Did
Spencer Collier refused to use federal and state resources to launch politically motivated criminal investigations against Roger Shuler and me. Because of this refusal, Collier was fired.
Undeterred, Gov. Bentley’s efforts to use federal and state resources to harass me continued under the leadership of David Byrne, the governor’s legal adviser/consigliere, and Stan Stabler, Bentley’s replacement for Collier.
Byrne also worked closely with John D. Harrison, the former Superintendent of the Alabama Banking Department, to run me out of the banking business. To date, these efforts have not been successful.
Harrison allowed Bentley to hijack his office and use the state Banking Department to administer retribution against the governor’s targeted political enemies. The number one target on the governor’s list of enemies was me.
Prior to this targeting, I had been successfully operating Alamerica Bank on Birmingham’s Southside since its founding in January 2000. The bank is one of only 19 African-American banks in America and holds the only bank charter ever issued by the state of Alabama to an African-American. The bank has always been well capitalized and did not require taxpayer bailout money during the Great Recession of 2008. Prior to Bentley’s retaliation, the bank had never experienced problems with its regulators.
The Banking Department’s abusive regulatory oversight of Alamerica Bank was so severe and harsh that it was an open secret within the industry that the Department was trying to administer the “death penalty” to the bank. The disparate and unfavorable regulatory treatment of Alamerica Bank, when compared to the treatment of other state chartered banks in Alabama, was shocking to our peers in the industry. Everyone knew that I had been singled out for destruction. What is more, the Banking Department cajoled the FDIC’s Atlanta region office to go along with its regulatory retaliation program.
Collier’s Ordeal is Ending
Spencer Collier sued Bentley for his wrongful termination. The case was settled last week with Collier receiving a reported $700,000 under the settlement agreement. Thereafter, the case will be dismissed.
Collier’s ordeal is ending, but mine continues.
Gov. Bentley resigned his office in disgrace in April 2017. Today, Bentley and Rebekah Mason are still lovers and they work together in Bentley's private medical practice.
The mainstream reporters who were afraid to publish articles on the Bentley-Mason secret love affair during the first seven months of the scandal in 2015-16 eventually won praise for their work from pundits on national TV. One of them won a Pulitzer Prize for regurgitating and repackaging the journalistic work performed by Roger Shuler and me under the most threatening, harmful, and retaliatory conditions.
The rest of the story is history.
PHOTO: Former Gov. Robert Bentley (left) and former ALEA Chief Spencer Collier (right) settled Collier’s wrongful termination lawsuit last week.