June 30, 2017
Open Letter to the Parents of Megan Rondini
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rondini,
Words cannot express the sorry I feel for the Rondini family. From what I have learned, Megan was a wonderful daughter and loving sibling to her sister. Above all, Megan was an exceptional human being.
I am a 1973 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law. I have a daughter who is entering her senior year at the University. Like all parents, I want my daughter's college experience to be a safe and enjoyable one.
After graduating from law school, I dedicated the next 44 years of life to fighting for the rights of those Alabama citizens who have suffered the most in the state's history. In the course of my legal work, I have learned a lot about the powerful oligarchy that runs Alabama.
I did not know anything about Megan's sexual assault case until my daughter sent me the BuzzFeed News article. I was devastated when I read Megan's story. I promised my daughter that I would do everything within my power to make things right for Megan and your family.
I began my investigation into Megan's situation by following the evidence. Megan left me plenty of evidentiary clues to help me understand what happened to her on the night she encountered T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn, Jr. The totality of the evidence leads me to believe that Megan was sexually assaulted that night. If I had any doubt about this conclusion, it was removed yesterday after I received a key piece of evidence.
Megan fought her way through a very complicated and toxic "good ole boy" system in the aftermath of her rape. In doing so, Megan exhibited an amount of strength and courage I have rarely seen in sexual assault cases. She did everything a rape victim was supposed to do. Even when Megan was pressured, bullied and betrayed by the very law enforcement officials who were sworn to protect and serve her, she still fought gallantly. After Megan discovered that investigators Adam Jones and Josh Hastings had turned against her, she made sure that there would be a record of her rape report on file for the benefit of any future Sweet T rape victim.
Finally, Megan's presence of mind throughout her terrible ordeal made it possible for me to: (a) identify the public officials and employees who failed her, (b) properly investigate the ones who sold her out, and (c) continue the pursuit of justice in her case. Even in death, Megan left us some critical information we needed to continue the fight for her dignity as a sexual assault victim.
By way of background, please allow me to share the details of the first law enforcement scandal I uncovered in Alabama. In December of 1975, an unarmed black man named Bernard Whitehurst was fatally shot by Montgomery police officer Donnie Foster. The police department initially claimed Whitehurst was a fleeing felon who shot at Foster while on the run. I investigated this police killing while being subjected to a barrage of death threats. After exhuming Whitehurst's body, we discovered that he had been shot in the back. I later established that the gun found beside Whitehurst's body came from the police property room and was "planted" there by a police officer after his death. The case resulted in the resignations of Montgomery's mayor and police commissioner, the indictment of three police officers, and the firing or resignation of eight others.
The April 3, 1977, edition of the Washington Post called the Whitehurst case "Alabama's Watergate". This case was recently featured in the December 19, 2015, edition of the New York Daily News in an article titled, "Innocent Alabama man murdered by cops 40 years ago, police heard saying 'We done shot the wrong n-----'".
Based upon the evidence that I have gathered to date, I believe the law enforcement cover-up and abuse of power in Megan's case far exceeds the wrongdoing we exposed in Whitehurst's case. I expect the fallout from Megan's case to be widespread and career-ending for many people.
Some misguided individuals who are loyalty to the Bunn and UA families will likely subject the Rondini family to various threats. This is par for the course in Alabama. I have resources for detecting and deterring these threats that are far beyond the capabilities of those who would engage in such mindless criminal activity.
When I look back at all that Megan has done for us, I realize that she is a fallen hero. We would have never have discovered the nature and scope of the corruption within Tuscaloosa's criminal justice system, as it relates to sexual assault victims, if Megan had not taken us deep inside this failed system. Megan's death has already produced public awareness and positive changes regarding how the system will handle sexual assault cases in the future. We are extremely grateful to Megan for her positive contribution to the rights of sexual assault victims.
I will continue to report on Megan's case until all of the individuals who bullied, betrayed, and/or failed her are held fully accountable for their misconduct. This is my personal commitment to you and to my daughter. It is the least I can do to honor Megan's legacy as a sexual assault victim.
Donald V. Watkins