The Tuscaloosa News Defends "Sweet T" In Megan Rondini Rape Case
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on September 27, 2017
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on September 27, 2017
Three months after BuzzFeed News published its explosive article on the Megan Rondini rape case, the Tuscaloosa News finally published its first detail article on this case. Tuscaloosa County Judge Brad Almond, who gave Megan's accused rapist Terry Jackson "Sweet T" Bunn, Jr., instant access to Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy's investigative file in Megan's case, also gave the News access to this file.
On its face, the News' article looks like an exhaustive piece of journalism. Under closer scrutiny, it is nothing more than a slick PR piece for the Bunn family, Sheriff Abernathy, and their cronies. After all, the News was the Bunn family's newspaper of choice for an attack ad against Megan Rondini that was published on July 27, 2017.
Titled, "File detail investigation into Megan Rondini case" and written by Stephanie Taylor, the News' September 26, 2017, article is essentially a defense of Sweet T in Megan's rape case. The article picks up where the Bunn family's attack ad left off.
Early on, the article offered this sympathetic view of Sweet T: "A man has been cast by some as a dangerous predator – not convicted by a judge or jury, but by public opinion in an ongoing 'trial by social media'".
Michael James, the executive editor of the News, gave the following rationale for requesting the police file in Megan's rape case: "A lot of information about this matter has appeared online and on social media, much of it unsubstantiated. We believe that's irresponsible. Considering the gravity of the accusations and insinuations that have arisen with regard to institutions the public should have faith and confidence in, we believe it would be in the public interest for the court to order the release of the records."
Following this declaration of "public interest" reporting, the News laid out a chronology of events in the Sheriff's Department rape investigation. There was no new substantive information about the case in the News' article. The content of the relevant text messages on Megan's cell phone and the nature and scope of the police interviews with the principal parties in the case have been published on my Facebook page on multiple occasions since June 2017.
The News sought, received, and published responses to its questions from Sheriff Abernathy and the attorneys who represent Investigators Adam Jones and Josh Hastings. Interestingly, the News did not seek a comment from Megan Rondini's parents, even though their attorney offered to make them available for an interview. Instead, the News quoted from the Rondini's wrongful death lawsuit against Abernathy, Jones, Hastings, The University of Alabama, and others.
As expected, the News did not report on, or explain, any of the following matters: (a) Sweet T's predatory sexual history with young coeds, (b) his "dirt bag" reputation in the local law enforcement community, (c) his history of using "date rape" drugs on coeds, and (d) the financial ties between the Bunn family and Sheriff Abernathy, former DA Lyn Head, and the University of Alabama. The article simply ignored these sensitive subjects and regurgitated the public spins on the case that had been launched by Sheriff Abernathy's office a few months ago.
Furthermore, the News' article did not explain the glaring contradiction between Sweet T's first interview with investigators (i.e., he did not bring Megan to his house) and his second interview (i.e., he had "consensual sex" with Megan at his residence). Inexplicably, the News' article claimed that Sweet T changed his first statement "within minutes" and gave a second recorded statement in which he admitted having sex with Megan. The police file, however, documents a nearly two-hour time break between Sweet T's first and second statements. During this time, Sweet T consulted with his lawyer.
Even though Investigator Adam Jones can be seen bullying Megan throughout her videotaped interview at headquarters on the afternoon of July 2nd, she refused to drop the rape charge against Sweet T. She also would not sign a "Refuse to Prosecute" form that Jones provided to her. The News' article omitted references to these two critical facts.
In contrast to the laughter and camaraderie exhibited between the crime scene investigators and Sweet T during his second interview at the house (which was recorded on audio tape), there was no laughter or bonding occurring during Megan's videotaped interrogation by Jones. What is more, Jones re-victimized Megan by casting her as a felony suspect and reading her Miranda rights while Megan was trying to press a rape charge against Sweet T. The News' article downplayed the significance of these critical aspects of the investigation.
On July 6th, Josh Hastings helped Sweet T's clean up his initial lie to investigators that he did not bring Megan to his house. Hastings suggested an innocent explanation for this false statement. Sweet T readily adopted Hastings' explanation and made it his own. Hastings then ended his interview with Sweet T with this telling "good ole boy" declaration: "The way I look at, man, if it was me on the other side of it, I would want you to do the same for me." The News' article did not explain why Hastings made such an ingratiating and inappropriate statement to a rape suspect.
The News' explanation of why Megan's urine sample was not examined by investigators is pure journalist "spin". Megan told Jones that there was a urine sample. Jones did not collect the urine sample, or test it for the presence of a "date rape" drug. This investigatory failure goes to the heart of the issue of "consensual" sex.
To be clear, Megan would have been legally incapable of having a "consensual" sexual encounter with Sweet T if she had been unobtrusively administered a "date rape" drug by him prior to the encounter. A timely forensic test on Megan's urine sample would have answered this key question from a scientific standpoint. Furthermore, Megan evidenced all of the classic signs of a "date rape" victim during the early morning hours of July 2, 2015.
The News' slant on the untested urine sample was a strained attempt to offer a plausible explanation for inexcusable law enforcement investigatory conduct in this regard.
Finally, the News quoted an official in Sheriff Abernathy's office as a source for its claim that Sweet T has not been named as a rape suspect in any reported sexual assault or rape case in Tuscaloosa. This claim is in direct conflict with reports we have received from law enforcement officials who are in a position to know the truth about this matter and who have asked to remain anonymous in order to protect their jobs. Furthermore, the News completely ignored Abernathy's propensity to downgrade rape cases to "Special Inquiries".
With all of these deficiencies in mind, the News' article is reprinted below.