BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Governor Robert Bentley's former chief of security, Wendall Ray Lewis, has filed a civil lawsuit against Bentley and his former senior political aide Rebekah Mason, claiming the two had a physical and sexual affair.
Bentley and Mason have both previously denied having a physical affair, but Bentley admitted to making "inappropriate comments" to Mason after audio recording surfaced of a conversation between them.
Mason resigned as Bentley's senior political aide on March 30, saying her only plans were to focus on her husband and children, who were the most important people in her life.
A spokesperson for Bentley recently denied that he was considering rehiring Mason in any capacity, after Bentley refused to answer if he would ever consider hiring her again.
John Saxon, Lewis' attorney, says Bentley and Mason's attorneys have had a draft of this lawsuit since Sept. 8. but the different parties couldn't resolve the situation. Saxon says they ultimately moved forward with this lawsuit "in order to find justice" for the wrongs he says were done against Lewis.
In the suit filed on Wednesday, Nov. 23 in Montgomery County, Lewis claims Bentley admitted to him that he was having a sexual affair with Mason.
Lewis claims the fallout from Bentley and Mason's affair forced him into early retirement from the state, that they invaded his privacy and defamed him and that it ultimately cost him future employment.
Lewis says Bentley, Mason and the other defendants named in the suit put him "in a false light" by claiming Lewis worked unapproved overtime hours for the governor. Lewis contends that the overtime hours were all approved and the defendants' denial were intentionally made with malice and were intended to discredit Lewis.
Lewis demands a judgement against Bentley, Mason and the other defendants and asks for compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney and court fees. He is also demanding a retraction from Bentley regarding the statements that Bentley didn't approve Lewis' overtime.
Lewis says he and others advising the Governor unsuccessfully tried to persuade Bentley to end the affair, to which he replied, "If they don't stop treating her like some sort of ... I'll fire 'em all. In fact, I'll fire anybody who continues to mistreat Rebekah."
Lewis claims that Bentley's sons went to Mason's parents in Haleyville for help to end the affair, "to no avail." It says when Bentley found out, "he was furious.
The lawsuit also claims:
- On a couple of occasions, Bentley told Lewis he loved Rebekah. “One time, on the front porch of the Governor’s Tuscaloosa home, he also told Plaintiff, ‘I love Dianne. But I love Rebekah more.’”
- In Feb. 2014, Gov. Bentley and Mrs. Bentley argued about Mrs. Mason. It says the governor got mad and drove himself to the beach. Mrs. Bentley told Lewis and expressed concern that the governor might harm himself. "The Governor had left in such a rage he forgot his wallet, which was flown by helicopter to him--at state expense."
- When news of flying the wallet to Gov. Bentley broke, Stan Stabler claimed he didn't see the text message from the Governor to Mrs. Mason. "That was not a truthful statement; he did. It was sexual in nature," the lawsuit says.
- Lewis said he saw Rebekah Mason coming out of Bentley's office "with her hair all messed up, and straightening up her skirt as she emerged from the Governor's office, after having been in there for hours."
- Lewis claims that Bentley told him that he “was going to create a ‘501(c)(4) to get Rebekah paid.’” Lewis believes this 501(c)(4) was in fact the Alabama Council for Excellent Government non-profit. According to the suit, it was established in 2014 by Bentley’s former legal advisor Cooper Shattuck to advance the beliefs and policies of Bentley. Lewis says he was told by Bentley’s Chief of Staff Seth Hammett that Hammett had told Bentley Mason couldn’t be on the state payroll because of the relationship, and that was why they needed the 501(c)(4).
- An iPad was synced to Bentley's iPhone, and Mrs. Bentley was able to see the "steamy cell phone text messages" Bentley was sending to Mason. Mrs. Bentley told Lewis about the texts, the lawsuit claims.
- Lewis claims he retired "earlier than he had ever intended because of the actions of Bentley and Mason." He says he went to see Bentley's son Paul on Jan. 8, 2016, and Paul Bentley showed him some of the texts between his father, the Governor, and Mrs. Mason, "which were sexual in nature."
- On August 4, 2014, the Governor leased a plane for his campaign. Lewis claims he told Bentley he couldn't put Mason on a state plane, and Bentley replied, "That’s why I lease these planes.” They flew from Montgomery to Jasper on a private plane, because the private plane did not have to keep a manifest. The lawsuit claims once they were on the ground, Bentley said, “Listen, guys. I want Rebekah on these planes.” On the plane, Mason would sit across from the Governor and discreetly touch his leg. One campaign staffer saw the Governor touch Mason’s leg.
- Lewis says when he asked the governor if his relationship with Mason was physical. "After initially hemming and hawing, the Governor replied, reluctantly but clearly, 'Yeah, it was physical.'"
- The suit claims Bentley sent word that he needed to talk to Lewis on May 7, 2014. When Lewis found him in the Capitol, Bentley was crying. Mason was also in the office, and also appeared to be crying. Bentley told Lewis that Dianne had accused him of having an affair, and she had a recording, but had given it to his son Paul.
- Bentley asked Lewis to find out if there was a recording, then told Lewis, “Ray, I am embarrassed for you to hear what’s on that recording. It’s between Rebekah and I. I am ashamed of what came out of my mouth.”
- Lewis then asked if the affair was true. “Yes. I am ashamed of what I have done," the lawsuit claims Bentley said.
- Lewis said he then told the Governor that he was getting into a touchy situation because they use state vehicles and state planes, saying, “This is about the State of Alabama.”
- Lewis claims Bentley told him, “Ray, I know. I need you to go upstairs and break-up with Rebekah for me.”
- Lewis said he found Mason upstairs and told her the affair had to end.
- According to the suit, Lewis told Mason, "The Governor sent me up here and he says this has to end. Rebekah, this would embarrass the Governor, his family and everybody involved. This would embarrass you and your family. You can’t be his girlfriend and have him take you around in state cars and planes.” Mason replied, “I know.” The meeting lasted an hour, with both Lewis and Mason crying much of the time. Toward the end of the meeting, the Governor walked in, started rubbing and massaging Mason’s shoulders, stroking her hair, and saying, “Baby, it’s gonna be alright.”
- The suit claims Bentley wrote a drug prescription for Mason. Lewis says he saw a text in which Bentley asked if Mason received the medicine he had prescribed her. It doesn't say what kind of medicine he allegedly prescribed.
- Lewis claims on at least one occasion, "Governor Bentley ordered generic Viagra in Dianne Bentley’s name, and had it shipped to the Mansion." Dianne allegedly intercepted it and told Lewis about it.
- Lewis claims he was concerned about Dianne Bentley's health and was concerned she might take her own life.
- Lewis said Bentley's desire to be with Mason at all costs meant that, on at least one occasion, they met at a lake with no security present.
Read the full lawsuit here:
Bentley's attorney John Neiman issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon:
Gov. Bentley issued his own statement in response:
Lewis' attorney John Saxon released this statement supporting his client and says it's time for Governor Bentley to tell the truth. Read his full statement below:
Jon and Rebekah Mason declined to comment at this time.
Mason resigned as Bentley's senior political adviser in March after allegations of an affair between her and the governor surfaced.
Spencer Collier, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary, held a news conference and accused Gov. Robert Bentley of carrying on an extra-marital affair with a staff member a day after he was fired by Bentley.
Bentley admitted making inappropriate comments but denied having a physical relationship.
Bentley's wife of 50 years, Dianne, filed for divorce in Aug. 2015, saying "their marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown," according to court records.
The court documents say Dianne Bentley "states that there is such a complete incompatibility of temperament that the parties can no longer live together" and their marriage "has suffered an irretrievable breakdown and that further attempts at reconciliation are impractical and not in the best interests of the parties."
It also says "there exists a conflict of personalities which destroys the legitimate aims of matrimony and all possibilities of reconciliation are futile."
The documents say the Bentleys have been separated since January 2015, the same month Gov. Bentley was sworn in for his second term as Alabama's governor.