Friday, July 07, 2017

EDITORIAL -- Accepting Responsibility in Megan Rondini's Rape Case - Donald V. Watkins 

Accepting Responsibility in Megan Rondini's Rape Case
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 7, 2017
At 5 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy issued the following statement on his Department's Facebook website:
"The law enforcement officers of Tuscaloosa County are some of the finest men and women of the profession, and they are extremely dedicated to ensuring that justice is carried out fairly and impartially. There has been a recent onslaught of negative media attention directed at these officers due to a one-sided, social media article that did not present all the facts of a tragic case. The article failed to mention the conflicting statements from the parties involved as well as much of the actual evidence of the case. Public opinion has been negatively influenced based on partial, and somewhat misleading, information presented by a media outlet.
This case, and all of its evidence, was presented to an impartial Grand Jury, which heard it in its entirety. That Grand Jury determined that there was not sufficient probable cause, under Alabama law, to determine that a crime had been committed, and they refused to indict. This decision was based on the evidence presented. This is part of the due process that our legal system is bound to afford every citizen. We are confident that the court will find that the Sheriff's Office, and all officers involved in the investigation, acted professionally and appropriately. The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office is committed to fair and impartial enforcement of the laws of Alabama, which is in stark contrast to the way we were presented in this recent misleading article."
Abernathy refuses to accept personal responsibility for his actions in betraying Megan Rondini during the course of his Department's investigation into her allegations of rape. Abernathy ordered investigators in Megan's case to "script" it -- do the minimum amount of work necessary on the case. They complied, and Megan's case was reduced to a "special inquiry".
Sadly, Abernathy did not have the decency to mention Megan Rondini by name in his press statement. Megan is the University of Alabama honors student who accused T.J. "Sweet" Bunn, Jr., of an alleged sexual assault on the night of July 1, 2015. No self-respecting law enforcement officer would deliberately snub the alleged rape victim by failing to acknowledge her by name in a press release that was designed to assure the public that justice was served in her case.
Additionally, the "one sided, social media article" Abernathy railed against in his press release was the article I published on Tuesday, titled, "Prosecutors Sold Out Megan Rondini for Bunn Family Campaign Cash." Interestingly, Abernathy's statement did not dispute or contradict any published facts about the flow of laundered campaign money from the Bunn family to prosecutors Lyn Head and Hays Webb.
Abernathy's characterization of the March 2016 grand jury presentation as "impartial" is a complete departure from reality. District Attorney Lyn Head and her staff presented Megan's rape allegations to the grand jury. Sheriff Department investigators Adam Jones and Josh Hastings reportedly assisted Head with this presentation. Megan was not available to testify because she took her life on February 26, 2016.
Megan was ready, willing, and able to testify in late July 2015. However, Head decided at that time to close the case without presenting the case to a grand jury. She informed Megan's father of her closeout decision in late July 2015.
Adding insult to injury in this case, Megan's accused rapist contributed $500 in laundered cash to Lyn Head shortly after the grand jury presentation, which she proudly accepted. This was Sweet T's way of "tipping" Lyn Head for a job well done.
Current DA Hays Webb has continued the political tradition of accepting laundered campaign money from the Bunns for doing absolutely nothing as a prosecutor to ensure that justice is served in Megan's case.
The acceptance of laundered campaign cash from the Bunns created a genuine conflict of interest for Abernathy, Head, and Webb. This conflict of interest gave rise to a duty on the part of Abernathy, Head, and Webb to recuse themselves from all aspects of Megan's case.
At a minimum, Abernathy should have referred Megan's case to the State Bureau of Investigation. This is what Sheriff Edmund "Ted" Sexton did in connection with Sweet T's prior sexual assault case.
Head and Webb, respectively, should have requested the appointment of a special prosecutor to thoroughly investigate Megan's rape allegations and prosecute them, to the extend warranted. They made no such request.
As a result of Abernathy's misconduct in Megan's case, she is dead and Sweet T is walking around free. "This is part of the due process that our legal system is bound to afford every citizen," says Abernathy. I don't think so.
Although the "law enforcement officers of Tuscaloosa County are some of the finest men and women of the profession, and they are extremely dedicated to ensuring that justice is carried out fairly and impartially," our focus will remain on bringing to justice the handful of law enforcement officials who sold out Megan Rondini for dirty campaign money.
Laundered campaign money bought Sweet T some "above the law" protection within the Sheriff's Department under Abernathy's leadership. It also gave birth to a politically sanctioned form of "immunity from prosecution" under district attorneys Lyn Head and Hays Webb that is unacceptable in today's society.
This law enforcement abuse of process and betrayal of an alleged rape victim is what we must take personal responsibility for stopping in Megan Rondini's case and others like it.

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