The Megan Rondini story in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, provides a grim reminder of just how true that second statement can be. Adam Jones, an investigator with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office, cited a blatantly incorrect version of Alabama law, in an apparent attempt to bring Rondini's rape claim against T.J. "Sweet Tea" Bunn to a standstill. Likely in frustration and despair -- understandably convinced that no one in authority around the University of Alabama was willing to stand up to a member of a wealthy and influential family -- Rondini returned to her home state of Texas and took her own life.
According to the BuzzFeed News report that broke Rondini's story into the open, Jones told the 20-year-old UA student that she had no criminal case against Bunn because she did not "earnestly resist" by "kicking or hitting" him. Alabama rape law does include an "earnest resistance" component, which many states have removed from their statutes, but it does not mean what Jones claims.
A case styled Lucas v. State of Alabama (Ala. Ct. of Crim. App., 2016), the most recent case to address "earnest resistance" under Alabama law, makes it clear that Jones, either intentionally or out of ignorance, was way off base. From Lucas:
`"Earnest resistance" is likewise a relative term, and when determining whether there was earnest resistance, the relative strength of the victim and the defendant, the victim's age, the victim's physical and mental condition, and the degree of force employed must be considered.' C.M. v. State, 889 So. 2d at 64 (citing Richards v. State, 475 So. 2d 893, 895 (Ala. Crim. App. 1985))."
Lucas is not the only Alabama case that shows Jones is full of barnyard excrement. A case styled Rudolph v. State, 200 So. 3d 1186 (Ala. Crim. App., 2015) does the same thing.
First, we should note that Code of Alabama 13A-6-61 deals with three kinds of rape in the first degree:
(1) Sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex by forcible compulsion [13A-6-61(a)(1)].
(2) Sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated [13A-6-61(a)(2)].
(3) Being 16 years or older and having sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex who is less than 12 years old.
If the Megan Rondini case moved forward as it should have, it likely would have been brought under No. 1 and maybe No. 2, given that she'd had several drinks and did not remember certain events leading to the alleged rape.
In Rudolph, the defendant (Melvin Rudolph) was convicted of one count of rape under No. 1, one count of rape under No. 2, and one count of sexual abuse under Code of Alabama 13A-6-66(a)(1). The victim was S.G., who was 11 years old at the time of the incident. From the opinion:
The State's evidence at trial tended to show the following: S.G., who was 14 years old at the time of trial, testified that, during the summer of 2012 she lived with her grandmother and that Rudolph was her grandmother's "helper around the house. . . . " S.G. testified that Rudolph sometimes slept at her grandmother's house. S.G. testified that, one evening that summer, she gave her grandmother her medication and that her grandmother went to sleep. S.G. testified that she locked the doors of her grandmother's house and went to her room to go to sleep. S.G. testified that Rudolph was the only other person in the house and that he was asleep on a couch when she went to her room. S.G. testified that, later in the evening, she was alone in her room sleeping when Rudolph tapped on her shoulder and woke her up. S.G. testified that Rudolph pulled her shorts and underwear down, climbed on top of her, pinned her down, and penetrated her vagina with his penis. . . . S.G. testified that she knew that Rudolph was the man who raped her because she could smell alcohol on his breath, and she knew that Rudolph had been drinking earlier that day. S.G. testified that, after Rudolph left her room, she locked herself in her closet and stayed there until morning because she was afraid of Rudolph.
Did the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals uphold the conviction against Rudolph under Code of Alabama 13A-6-61(a)(1), the same statute under which Megan Rondini's case likely would have been brought? The answer is yes. From the opinion:
In order to convict Rudolph of first-degree rape under § 13A-6-61(a)(1), the State must prove that Rudolph "engaged in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex by forcible compulsion. . . . " Section 13A-6-60(8), Ala.Code 1975, defines "forcible compulsion" as "[p]hysical force that overcomes earnest resistance or a threat, express or implied, that places a person in fear of immediate death or serious physical injury to himself or another person." S.G.'s testimony, as noted above, was sufficient evidence to sustain Rudolph's conviction of first-degree rape under § 13A-6-61(a)(1), Ala.Code 1975.
As a reminder, here again is S.G.'s testimony, upon which the Rudolph conviction was reached and upheld:
S.G. testified that Rudolph entered her bedroom one evening while she was sleeping, woke her up, removed her shorts and underwear, climbed on top of her, pinned her down, and penetrated her vagina with his penis.
You will notice that the Rudolph opinion makes no finding that S.G. had to "hit or kick" her attacker. In fact, it doesn't say much about resistance at all. It simply finds that the testimony highlighted in yellow above is enough to support a conviction on rape in the first degree.
Words in a magazine, of course, are different from words stated under oath in a court of law. But Megan Rondini's account to BuzzFeed News sounds an awful lot like S.G.'s testimony in the Rudolph case.
The big difference in the two cases? In Rudolph, which originated in Lowndes County, S.G. got a chance for her voice to be heard in court. In the case against T.J. Bunn Jr., which originated in Tuscaloosa, Megan Rondini never got that chance.