Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tuscaloosa County investigator gave Megan Rondini a false description of Alabama rape law, ensuring her claim against T.J. Bunn Jr. would come to a standstill

Megan Rondini
An investigator for the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office gave Megan Rondini a false description of Alabama law in an apparent effort to justify his refusal to pursue a rape case against a member of a wealthy and prominent west Alabama family.

Rondini, an Austin, Texas, native who had been a student at the University of Alabama, eventually committed suicide after law-enforcement and university officials reacted with indifference to her allegations against T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn Jr., a member of the family behind ST Bunn Construction Co.

Rondini's parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against UA and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. Among the defendants is investigator Adam Jones, who based on news account, gave Rondini a inaccurate portrayal of Alabama law, apparently to support his finding that she had no rape case against "Sweet T" Bunn.

Birmingham attorney Leroy Maxwell Jr. represents the Rondini family. Here is a link to a report about the lawsuit yesterday by reporter Mary Kekatos, at UK Daily Mail. (A copy of the complaint is embedded at the end of this post.)

According to BuzzFeed News, which broke the story after it had gone unnoticed by Alabama's mainstream press, Jones did not pursue the case because Rondini did not "earnestly resist" Bunn. Specifically, Jones determined no rape occurred because Rondini had not "hit or kicked" Bunn. From the BuzzFeed article, by Katie J.M. Baker:

Eventually, Jones returned to Megan’s rape allegations. “Based on your statements to me, you said that you never resisted him,” he said.

“I did resist him,” Megan said, listing the ways she did, from repeatedly telling Bunn she wanted to leave to turning away when he kissed her. “I wanted to go home,” she said. “He didn’t take me home.”

“Look at it from my side,” Jones replied calmly. “You never kicked him or hit him or tried to resist him.”

Jones shows here that, like a lot of cops, he does not know the law. That can be dangerous for many victims; it helped cost Megan Rondini her life.

Rape in the first degree is described at Code of Alabama 13A-6-61 as follows:

Rape in the first degree

(a) A person commits the crime of rape in the first degree if:

(1) He or she engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex by forcible compulsion.

"Forcible compulsion" is a key component of rape cases in many states. Here is what it means in Alabama:

Forcible compulsion is physical 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/herself or another person. [13A-6-60(8)]

Alabama is one of the few states where "earnest resistance" remains a part of its rape statute.  So investigator Jones was correct to cite the term to Megan Rondini. But he was wrong about its meaning.

T.J. "Sweet Tea" Bunn
A case styled Lucas v. State of Alabama (Ala. Ct. of Crim. App., 2016) is the most recent case to address the issue of earnest resistance. The court's holding came after it had addressed other issues commonly found in rape cases -- "consent," "force," and "intent to gratify." From the Lucas opinion:

`"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))."

As you can see, there is nothing here about a requirement to "kick or hit" the alleged attacker. Megan Rondini likely was smaller and less strong than "Sweet T" Bunn, she was younger than Mr. Bunn, evidence suggests alcohol had left her in a compromised physical and mental state, and Mr. Bunn allegedly pulled on her clothing, even after she said she did not want to have sex with him and wanted to go home.

Under Alabama law, Adam Jones had more than enough evidence to bring a solid rape case. It appears he simply did not want to.

We have found other case law that throws a wrench into Jones' contention that a rape victim must "kick or hit" her alleged attacker in order to bring a criminal case in Alabama. We will address that in an upcoming post.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a well-researched article, Mr. Schnauzer. This cop might be dense, but he also might have done this intentionally. No wonder this poor young woman felt she was all alone.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if the Rondini family's lawsuit settles quickly.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:40 --

Yes, it will. I doubt UA and the sheriff's office want to go through discovery.

Anonymous said...

This part of the University of Alabama's statement bothers me. In fact, the whole statement bothers me, but this part especially:

"Additionally, the UA Title IX Office was in contact with Megan, including offering academic accommodations and helping to streamline her withdrawal when Megan elected to return to Texas."

They were "helping to streamline" Megan's withdrawal? How does that help her? Sounds like she was a problem for them, and they wanted to get rid of her like yesterday's garbage -- ASAP!

legalschnauzer said...

@9:57 --

Agreed, that part of statement smells funny, even worse than other parts of the statement.

I wonder if Megan would have wanted to withdraw if she had received thoughtful help from the university and honest assistance from law enforcement.

It sounds like she killed herself partly because she missed her friends at U of Alabama. Pushing her to withdraw and go to another school probably contributed to her suicide.

She needed help, not to be thrown to the curb.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Schnauzer --

Your post is extremely important. It pokes gaping holes in the statement from the Bunn family lawyer. This is from

His lawyer, W. Ivey Gillmore, said in a statement to that the lawsuit is "baseless and "simply false."

"Law enforcement investigated this matter; the district attorney's office reviewed the evidence; the evidence was even presented to a grand jury that found there was no justification for charges against my client. It is, perhaps, natural to want to find someone to blame when a young woman takes her life," Gillmore said. "But accusing law enforcement and those who counseled this young woman for her actions is misguided. Unfortunately, bringing this matter before the courts in this civil action will only prolong grief without changing the reality."

Law enforcement investigated this matter? Really? They covered it up by citing an incorrect statement of Alabama law. Thanks to Legal Schnauzer, we know that now.

Mr. Gillmore is full of horse feces.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:16 --

Thank you. I would only change one thing about your comment. Comparing Mr. Gillmore to horse feces is an insult to horse feces.

If Gillmore is any kind of legit lawyer -- and that's a big if -- he has to know Adam Jones cited an incorrect statement of Alabama law to Ms. Rondini. Essentially, Ms. Rondini was a victim of taxpayer-supported fraud.

What Jones told Megan, and what the actual Alabama law says, are two entirely different things. Jones conned Megan, a victim, and probably did it at the insistence of his superiors, university officials, and others in the dysfunctional Tuscaloosa hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

I've never believed the law requires a rape victim to hit or kick her attacker. That makes no sense. It's requiring the victim to put herself at risk of being murdered in order to bring a rape case.

Bringing a rape case is pretty useless when you are already dead from having hit and kicked your attacker.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Tea is about the dumbest nickname I've ever heard. That kid better pray he stays out of prison. He'll be picked over in no time.

Anonymous said...

Megan was smaller than Bunn, weaker than Bunn, younger than Bunn, and not in her normal state of mind. That's rape, in Alabama or anywhere else. Great reporting, LS. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

This is real journalism, the kind you won't find at or T-town News (also known as the Paul Bryant Jr. Town Crier).

Anonymous said...

Someone instructed Jones to spew that BS at Megan Rondini. I would love to know who that was.

Anonymous said...

At root cause Megan's tragedy, excluding her attacker, was law enforcement which is mostly agreed upon by all following her story, right; 2015 Alabama's number one law enforcement officer, the attorney general, Luther Strange now a candidate for the UNITED STATES SENATE, A REPRESENTATIVE FOR ALL THE UNITED STATES VIA HIS VOTES is obligated to acknowledge his, his office's awareness of Megan's situation with this individual and what occurred in the aftermath.

Mr. Strange, as Attorney General, what did you FIRST know in your official capacity?
when did you FIRST know it?
how did you/your office respond?
who did you speak to about Megan's case?
under color of law, in official capacities?
why have you/your office been mute since 2015?
Think now many cover ups be caused to surface?
Have you, ATTORNEY GGENERAL ever been corrupt?

The nature of your political advertising demands that response be forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

Roger, ref. 11:16 AM July 5, 2017, hypothetically thinking; should in the event the public's knowledge of Megan's tragedy is not limited to Tuscaloosa, and even then in a selective measure, but in reality as mentioned in 11:16's comments, but even goes beyond those boundaries. Governor Bentley being from Tuscaloosa, Mrs. Mason, also from Tuscaloosa, and then you have Mr. Spencer Collier, Bentley's hand pointed hand for Secretary Alabama Law Enforcement Agency at the time; are we all to conclude that none of these high ranking authorities knew of the events ongoing at Tuscaloosa involving Megan's aftermath? And what of Strange as then Attorney General being in discussions with then Senator Jeff Sessions, was he too ignorant of Megan's tragedy, or had he too known since 2015 the circumstances? For Megan's sake, for Megan's parent's closures, as best can be achieved I trust that you Roger will blaze the trail demanding specific answers especially since law enforcement is at the center of this tragedy, and/or cause to force others in media environments to demand answers relating to above simple questions. And finally, how can Strange be qualified to continue to run for any elected office when named in a bribery investigation, and now such a tragedy involving a death on his watch as Attorney General, at what level who has the final say as to whether Strange a qualified candidate, without having been tainted and tarnished due corruptions?

Anonymous said...

Do the Bunns support their local law enforcement?

Perhaps by making donations of any sort?

Do they ever take members of law enforcement or the local prosecution team on hunting or fishing trips?

Do any of the Bunns serve in any sort of way on a reserve force for the local police or the local sheriff?

These are a few of the kinds of things good old boys have been known to do before in other places. (Such as former Tulsa reserve deputy Robert Batesinfamously did, for example.) Perhaps Mr Maxwell will already know to follow up to see just who all is in the various Good Old Boy clubs with the various persons involved with the various doings which now are the subject of the suit. So that if this G.O.B type thing should happen to be going on, the right questions will get asked and answered.

One more possibility that Mr Maxwell might want to consider exploring: Does Sweet T Bunn ever fly with a wingman when he is at places like the Innisfree Irish Pub? This might be good to know in case this possible unknown wingman could have bought people any drinks or accidentally lost any pills in any drinks or maybe the possible unknown wingman is connected to law enforcement in some way. Not to suggest that anything like former NFL star Darren Sharper did with Brandon Liccardi in New Orleans (and three other states with the help of at least one other now convicted felon) could ever happen in Tuscaloosa. There's probably enough churches and pious people in T-Town to prevent something like that Sharper crime spree, but if Mr Maxwell wants to be sure something infamous like this Darren Sharper thing didn't happen in Tuscaloosa, then perhaps Mr. Maxwell had better check things out thoroughly so he can avoid being surprised.

legalschnauzer said...

@5:02 --

I think your idea about a "wing man" is particularly interesting -- and particularly likely to be on target. I suspect this was a game for "Sweet Tea," and it's much more fun to play a game when you have someone on your side to play it with. And I think you are right that cops -- on and off-duty -- tend to hang around places like this and would find it delightful to join the "fun" on games like this. I'm betting Megan was not the first UA student to walk into this trap.

Anonymous said...

Tuscaloosa's mayor is running for guv. I wonder what he knows.

Anonymous said...

"Prosecutors Sold Out Megan Rondini for Bunn Family Campaign Cash

By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 4, 2017
(Updated on July 5, 2017, at 4:50 p.m.)"

" Whenever there is a failure of criminal justice of the magnitude we have seen in Megan Rondini’s alleged rape case, money has usually changed hands at the top of the law enforcement chain. This is exactly what happened between the Terry Jackson Bunn family interests and Tuscaloosa County District Attorneys Lyn Head and Hays Webb.

ST Bunn Construction Company, Inc., which is owned and controlled by brothers Sonny Bunn and Terry Bunn, Sr., funneled thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Head and Webb through two Tuscaloosa-based political action committees (“PACs”). The money began flowing after Megan lodged rape charges with Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s investigators against Terry Bunn’s son, T.J. “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr."

Well then...not that there's anything wrong with some campaign contributions...from the justus friends club...

DivineMsM said...

Roger you have maned Maxwell as Bunns attorney. Incorrect.

legalschnauzer said...

DivineMsM --

You are so right. Not sure how I made that big a screw up. Guess I had a brain cramp. I've made the correction, and thank you for calling it to my attention.

Anonymous said...

Guess the Apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Bunn Sr. Was just as bad in his time at Livingston University when not knowing what no means. Maybe money won't buy his son out

Anonymous said...

I know the bunns and have worked for them if that Lawer has anything in his past they will dig it up or buy him off . So i hope they are finely shut down on their powerful money . And T goes to Prison not a special one eather but a regular south al prison i know that want happen .Good luck >I wish the Family the best on this and hope they get it done sorry for the lost he caused.