Layman's Guide For Following Developments In Megan Rondini's Rape Case
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 10, 2017
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 10, 2017
In recent years, the state of Alabama has been through some blockbuster scandals. Alabamians seem to be in a constant state of scandal fatigue.
In 2014, Alabamians got introduced to Montgomery U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller's serial cheating and wife-beating conduct. After lying to federal judicial investigators about beating his wife and other improprieties, Fuller resigned from his lifetime appointment as a judge in 2015.
Alabamians suffered through two long years of Governor Robert Bentley's "sex for power" scandal with married lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. From August 2015 to April 2017, Bentley engaged in deceitful conduct and an endless series of denials. He stepped down as governor after pleading guilty to ethics violations.
From 2014 to 2016, Alabamians had to endure the indictment and trial of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard on ethics charges. In July 2016, a Lee County jury ended Hubbard's skyrocketing political career by finding him guilty on 12 of 23 felony counts. Hubbard was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
For readers who are new to Alabama's scandal-ridden landscape, here is a layman's guide for following the developments in Megan Rondini's rape case:
1. Every scandal and attendant cover-up in Alabama usually involves some kind of unlawful conduct that is initially known only to the participants involved in the wrongdoing. In Megan's case, the wrongdoing was the alleged rape of a University of Alabama honors student and a subsequent law enforcement cover-up of the alleged crime that was led by Tuscaloosa Sheriff Ron Abernathy and former District Attorney Lyn Head.
2. One or more of the participants in the crime and/or cover up will make mistakes or leave behind key clues for reconstructing what really happened to the victim. In Megan's case, the alleged victim left plenty of clues to understand what happened on the night of the alleged rape. Also, the participants in the cover-up made enough mistakes to break this case wide-open.
3. At some point, a trained and objective investigator will study the clues and reconstruct the crime and/or cover-up based upon the available evidence (and missing evidence). In Megan's case BuzzFeed News figured out that Megan got "home-cooked" by Tuscaloosa's law enforcement establishment after she made allegations of rape against the son of a wealthy businessman, University donor, and President's Cabinet member.
4. The actors involved in the alleged criminal conduct and/or cover-up will start out denying wrongdoing and shifting the blame to the crime victim. T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn, Jr., the man accused by Megan of raping her has, through his attorney, denied Megan's allegations of rape. During her police interview, Sheriff's investigators ingratiated themselves to Sweet T and turned Megan into a criminal suspect.
5. The perpetrator, along with those involved in the cover up, will invoke righteous indignation that anyone would dare accuse him/them of wrongdoing. This is where Megan's case stands now. Sheriff Ron Abernathy, the chief architect of the cover-up in Megan's case, has defended the system that railroaded Megan. Campaign finance reports disclosed that Abernathy and two successive district attorneys took laundered campaign money from the family of the accused. Sweet T even gave the DA Lyn Head a laundered campaign contribution, which she gladly accepted. Expect the cover-up participants to start trashing Megan's reputation now that she is dead and cannot defend herself.
6. Elected and appointed public officials in positions to help the alleged victim achieve justice in high profile cases usually flee the scene out of fear that the public might expect them to condemn the wrongful conduct and/or demand justice for the victim. In Megan's case, not one elected or appointed public official has stepped forward to demand justice in her rape case.
7. The perpetrator and/or cover-up participants will engage in a period of deafening silence until they can assess what information of their wrongdoing has been leaked to media groups. The University of Alabama is in this period of silence and assessment right now.
8. The perpetrator and/or cover-up participants will usually attack members of the media who write or publish articles exposing their wrongdoing. The PR spin will question the credibility of the reporters. Meanwhile, the perpetrator and/or cover-up participants will avoid admitting or denying the relevant facts reported. Supporters and allies of Megan's alleged rapist are in this phase now.
9. When cornered, the perpetrator and/or cover-up participants will often apologize for engaging in a "watered down" version of their original misconduct. After this forced atonement, they will ask to be forgiven and left alone.
10. Elected and appointed "leaders" will reappear on the scene when they think it is safe to do so. Only then, will they consider condemning the perpetrator and/or cover-up participants for their wrongful conduct. We call this "leading from behind". Alabama excels in this style of leadership.
11. The criminal justice system may reluctantly charge the perpetrator and/or the lower-level cover-up participants with "fig leaf" criminal charges, if pressed by public outrage to do so.
12. A modicum of positive change will eventually emerge from the scandal.
There you have it. I have experienced this development cycle in high profile scandals on numerous occasions during my 44 years of busting open law enforcement cover-ups.
Fortunately, we are getting much better at pursuing justice in these situations because of the emergence of strong online media groups. They have taken up the mantle of leadership in exposing the biggest scandals in the state. Mainstream media organizations usually lag several months behind their online competitors in breaking major scandals involving powerful people in Alabama. Like the state's politicians, they will come on the scene of a major scandal only when it is safe for them to do so.