Thursday, July 6, 2017

Multiple Alabama cases show that investigator fed Megan Rondini a crock of BS when he said her case failed because she did not "hit or kick" T.J. Bunn Jr.

Megan Rondini
A veteran attorney once told me, not long after I started this blog 10 years ago, "The last place you're likely to find justice is a courthouse." A corollary statement might be this: "If you have a question about the law, the last person you want to ask is someone in law enforcement."

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 T" 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.


Anonymous said...

Great reporting on this extremely important case, LS. Many thanks, and congrats on your recent milestones.

Anonymous said...

I second that emotion. You won't find this kind of reporting on the Rondini case anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know the law, never ask a cop. God, that's funny. But in this case, it's sad and oh so true.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Megan would have been better off going straight to the DA.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:36 --

That's a good question -- and a tough one. In a normal city, she might have been better off going to DA first. But not sure that would make any difference in a place as dysfunctional as Tuscaloosa. In all places, it seems, cops and prosecutors are joined at the hip. And in a rape case, cops are going to be involved at some point. It's just logical, when you have been the victim of a crime, to go to the cops about it -- so I think Megan did the natural thing.

My experience has been that cops often take a problem -- even something simple and relatively minor as trespassing -- and make it worse. I can only imagine how awful it must be to try to deal with them on something as serious as rape. Someone as young as Megan had no reason to know cops can make your problem worse, rather than better.

Tuscaloosa is so dirty that the cops might have been lying to Megan, under directions from the DA.

Anonymous said...

Kudos, Schnauzer! Hell, Donald Watkins is a lawyer, and he isn't doing this kind of legal reporting on the Rondini case. So far, all Watkins is doing is writing "open letters" to everyone who ever set foot in Tuscaloosa. Not sure, what good that is supposed to do.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:45 --

The "open letter" thing is getting kind of comical. I keep waiting for The Donald to write one to the fry cook at the Burger King on McFarland Blvd.

Anonymous said...

What about the 11:16 AM and 1:23 PM comments from July 5, 2017, suggesting extensive potentials for collusions beyond boundaries limited to Tuscaloosa proper? It is appearing that some comments having already been posted when returning for new reads and re-reads, some previously posted have been removed; are you being hacked by the secret society you think blocking incoming responses, and/or deletions?

legalschnauzer said...

@11:50 --

I don't understand what you are getting at. The comments you reference are still there. I haven't removed them, and I see no sign they have been hacked. I agree there is potential for all kinds of collusion on this within Tuscaloosa. Am I missing a broader point that you are trying to make?

Anonymous said...

Roger, I guess that within your most recent post what I thought had appeared obvious as having reached a total of over 30+ comments when later reviewing the total at top reflected only 27; maybe I need bi-focals, huh?

legalschnauzer said...

@12:12 --

I hear ya, re: the specs. Thanks for checking in on things.

Robby Scott Hill said...

If you need help and the police aren't interested in helping, they have an endless supply of excuses. Here are some of their favorites:

1) that's not governed by the criminal code. That's a civil dispute. You need a lawyer, not a cop.

2) We don't have jurisdiction here. This is federal, state, county or private property outside the city limits. Call the FBI, US Marshalls, Postal Inspectors, State Police, County Sheriff, Private Security, etc.

3) It does sound like a criminal matter, but since you don't have any witnesses or evidence to give us, it will be your word against his word & Brother Smith is a Deacon at the Baptist Church. You're not going to call Brother Smith a liar are you? His cousin is a lawyer & they'll sue all of us if he isn't found guilty & his other cousin is the judge.

4) You need to hire a private detective to try to find some evidence because we are understaffed.

5) We know the judge & he isn't going to sign a warrant.

6) The judge will sign the warrant, but we know the district attorney & he won't prosecute.

7) The DA will prosecute, but the guy will be out in six weeks & will come looking for you & we won't be there to protect you.

I've actually enjoyed having lived long enough to hear all the excuses, because I use all that good shit against them whenever possible.

One cop was looking at my car which admittedly had bald tires. I reminded him that we were at the Post Office which was federal property & he didn't have jurisdiction.

If the police want to help they will. If they don't want to help, you can vote the Mayor & City Council out of office. The People of Boaz, Alabama did just that in 2016. Power to the People!

Anonymous said...

There is also a big difference between an 11 year old and a college student. Even if the little girl had consented to sex, it would have still been rape because of her age.

legalschnauzer said...

Rob --

You are on your A game today. This is a serious subject, but your comment is hilarious because it has so much truth in it. Cops must be among the greatest excuse givers in the world. I can just hear cops saying these things -- in fact, I think I have heard cops say some of these things.

Thanks for a comment that is both insightful and damned funny.

legalschnauzer said...

@4:50 --

I would encourage you to re-read the post, especially the middle section. In the Rudolph case, involving the 11-year-old, the rapist was convicted on two counts of rape -- one that involved an age limit (under 12) and one that involved "forcible compulsion," but no age issue. The one with no age limit probably would have applied to Megan Rondini's case, if it had gone further. So yes, the ages are quite different, but the law (at least on "forcible compulsion") is the same -- and that's the point I was trying to make.

This is a confusing issue, and I must admit I had to read the statutes and case law several times before I thought I had a pretty good grip on it.

legalschnauzer said...

Rob --

Love your story about citing federal jurisdiction at the post office to get the local cop off your bald-tires case. Hah! Gotta remember that one.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I feel a kinship with the late Ms. Rondini. When my father pulled a gun on me, and I was the one needing help from the Police, I found myself being bullied & threatened with prosecution by them during that incident & afterwards. Sometimes, all you can do is be the facilitator of political change because if they are harassing you, chances are they are harassing others. That's why the Founding Fathers gave us the vote & the Bill of Rights. I encourage the People of Tuscaloosa to seek change at the ballot box & until the next elections are held, use the Bill of Rights in court, even for the most minor traffic offenses. I did & I also reported a couple of cops for possible misprision of a felony. When they get tough with you, you've got to get tough with them.

Anonymous said...

@ Robby Scott Hill - I would like to know the rest of the story where your father pulled a gun on you. Would you be willing to share?


Robby Scott Hill said...

I don't normally reply to anonymous comments @9:46 AM, but it's simple really. His doctors had him on a cocktail of medication that messed up his mind. Boaz Municipal Judge Shannon recognized that & allowed him to complete a no cost course in anger management & get some help. Although we were two grown men who had never been convicted of anything except a few traffic tickets in my case, the police charged him under the domestic violence statutes which were intended to protect vulnerable women & minor children, not two grown men.

In situations with two healthy, grown men, I can't think of any logical reason why the police would use the domestic violence statutes other than to raise revenues & take people's homes. Thanks to Judge Mitchell, we found a solution that allowed us to stay in our home. The Chief of Police, Assistant Chief, the Mayor & all but one of the City Councilmen at that time are gone. Perhaps they should have been spending more time tending to their own business. No hard feelings though. I wish them well in their future endeavors. As Russian President Putin once said, (paraphrased) is more to life than politics & money. You can be successful in other ways.

The police wrongly use the drug, domestic violence & resisting arrest statutes to financially prey upon the poor people & they know it. Many of the police officer's family members & associates are the real estate agents & closing attorneys who auction poor people's homes to satisfy the court fines & bogus judgments & that has been well documented on Roger's blog through the years.

I'm proud to say that I followed NWA's advice & I fucked the police.

And That's Straight Outta Compton!

Anonymous said...

@Robby Scott Hill - Thank you for your reply. So are you saying that the domestic laws should have said that "two grown men" are not covered under the law? Or if this is your first offense you can't be arrested? Sounds like they stopped the violence and it worked out. Maybe that was the intent of the law after all.

Robby Scott Hill said...

You're welcome @10:16 & 9:46, 7 July. Yes, it did work out, much like in Ms. Rondini's case, as a matter of fact. Before the incident involving my father, my mother had been arrested on bogus charges by the ABC Board. For both of them, this was their first experience with the criminal justice system & neither one of them got the community support they needed. Both of my parents fell into severe depressions & their health declined quickly. They are in a better place, but their pet dog & I are now orphans with no parents. We struggle daily to pay bills & survive, but we are survivors.

My parents are not the only victims in these unfortunate incidents. Many of the people involved the arrests have also passed away before their times or lost their jobs. Police officers have very stressful jobs & are also victims because of the low pay, lack of a cohesive union & the tendency of their supervisors to throw them under the bus.

It's a tough world out there & I advise everyone to do everything they can to manage their relationship with an out of control criminal justice system & the larger government it belongs to before it manages you. The days of Sheriff Andy Taylor & the local Justice of the Peace bringing everyone in for a come to Jesus meeting & a handshake agreement are over. The domestic violence laws say someone (primary aggressor) must go to jail. Then, there are property bonds, fines, etc. When you are left with no money to pay your mortgage, all the judges will tell you, "If you can't pay, you can't stay." Then, their wives & children the real estate agents, bankers & closing attorneys who in most cases, already have all the money they'll ever need, move in to take your home, profit from your poverty & send their kids to college so they won't have to put on overalls or get their hands dirty either.

This is why an attorney for Working People named Aleksander Ulyanov wrote the classic book, "The State & Revolution." His mother had been killed by the state & he decided he would begin to manage the system & stop being victimized by it. You may know him better by his alias, Vladimir Lenin. His struggle inspired millions to rise up and throw off their chains. The issues discussed on Legal Schnauzer are an important continuation of Lenin's work.

Workers of the World Unite,