Lessons Learned in the Megan Rondini Case
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 30, 2017
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on July 30, 2017
In the 44-years I have been practicing law in Alabama, I have fought many forms of public corruption and abuse of government power. In 2014, I exposed former federal judge Mark Fuller's sexual exploitation of female staffers and his domestic violence at a time when no government official would talk above a whisper about these open secrets. Fuller and his allies activated every relationship they had inside the federal government in an effort to harass and intimidate me.
In 2015, I broke the story on former governor Robert Bentley's marital cheating and misuse of our taxpayers' money to finance a jet-setting romance with lover Rebekah Mason. Bentley, using his power and authority as the "Chief Magistrate" of Alabama, encouraged every state and federal agency with investigatory power to launch full-scale investigations into my business and personal affairs. All of these investigations came up empty-handed.
Fuller and Bentley were two powerful and ruthless men. They were also liars and thugs.
During the past five weeks, however, I have learned that one Tuscaloosa family is far more powerful than Fuller and Bentley combined. This is the family of Terry Jackson Bunn, Sr. It rules Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama with an ironclad fist.
By virtue of its generous financial and in-kind contributions over the decades, the Bunn family now owns The University of Alabama, its President and Board of Trustees. These officials are little more than house servants to the Bunn family.
The family also owns and controls the Sheriff Ron Abernathy and the district attorney's office in Tuscaloosa County. When Robert Bentley was governor of Alabama, the Bunn family owned him, as well.
To demonstrate the family's clout in a very public way, Terry Jackson Bunn, Sr., made Governor Bentley appoint Terry Jackson "Sweet T" Bunn, Jr., to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Board and reappoint him to the Board after Sweet T received a DUI conviction in 2013. The family also orchestrated a "sweetheart" lawsuit settlement between Sweet T and the Department of Public Safety so that Sweet T could get his suspended driver's license back after his DUI conviction.
Against this backdrop, the Megan Rondini rape case has revealed many things about the nature and scope of the Bunn family's influence, dominion and control over public officials in Alabama. It has also demonstrated the level of respect, or lack thereof, that public officials have for women in Alabama.
Here are a few of the lessons we have learned from Megan's rape case:
1. A serial rapist from a rich and powerful family was able to have his rape cases "fixed" by Sheriff Ron Abernathy and former district attorney Lyn Head. DA Head even took laundered campaign cash directly from the accused rapist as a "tip" for a job well done.
2. No public official in Alabama will stand up for a young rape victim when the perpetrator is a member of a rich and powerful family, especially if this family is a major contributor to the Crimson Tide Foundation. In Alabama, money talks. When it does, justice walks.
3. In contrast to the lack of action by their Alabama counterparts, U.S. Representatives Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) introduced the Megan Rondini Act in Congress last week. If passed, the Act would require hospitals to either have a sexual assault forensic examiner available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or have plans to get rape victims to other nearby hospitals that do.
4. The "date rape" drug trade is thriving in Tuscaloosa under the watch of Sheriff Ron Abernathy and District Attorney Hays Webb.
5. The criminal investigation in Megan's rape case was not "botched", as some have suggested; it was "scripted" by Sheriff's investigators to cover up for another one of Sweet T's questionable sexual encounters.
6. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has the backbone of a jellyfish. The affable AG specializes in running from high-profile criminal cases involving rich and powerful individuals who have been accused of wrongdoing. When Marshall does enter the fray to protect someone, it is usually a rich corporate criminal or powerful political crook.
7. Sweet T traveled to the Bunn family's home on Ono Island, Alabama after the police visited his house on July 2nd. Sweet T hung out at the beach with his parents, Attorney Jason Neff and wife Christine, and other friends of the family. Neff is the attorney who accompanied Sweet T to his powder-puff police interview in Megan's case. Investigators bombarded Megan with bullying questions and improper tactics while she was accusing Sweet T of rape. In contrast, the same investigators allowed Sweet T the courtesy of enjoying a carefree holiday weekend with his family and attorney so that he could get his story straight before interviewing him at headquarters on the following Monday.
8. Two days after Megan accused him of rape, Sweet T was on the prowl in local bars in the Orange Beach area trying to pick up his next conquest. The young woman Sweet T targeted on this trip scoped him out and eventually rejected him after a couple of dates.
9. Sweet T still uses dating sites and bars to lure female victims into his web of deception and danger.
On a positive note, exactly one day after her husband Ivey Gilmore published his infamous July 27, 2017, attack ad against a dead Megan Rondini and her grieving family, Laurie Beth Gilmore openly "liked" one of the many "Justice For Megan" Facebook pages.
Also, Megan's story has caused a groundswell of mothers to alert their daughters to the dangers of the Sweet T's of the world.
Finally, the voters of Tuscaloosa County will have an opportunity next year to end Sheriff Ron Abernathy's protective shield around Terry Jackson Bunn, Jr.
Stay tuned. Much more is coming.