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Tuscaloosa County Investigator Gave Megan Rondini a False Description of Alabama Rape Law, Ensuring Her Claim Against T.J. Bunn Jr. Would Come to a Standstill

Posted on the 05 July 2017 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Tuscaloosa County investigator gave Megan Rondini a false description of Alabama rape law, ensuring her claim against T.J. Bunn Jr. would come to a standstill

Megan Rondini

An investigator for the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office gave Megan Rondini a false description of Alabama law in an apparent effort to justify his refusal to pursue a rape case against a member of a wealthy and prominent west Alabama family.
Rondini, an Austin, Texas, native who had been a student at the University of Alabama, eventually committed suicide after law-enforcement and university officials reacted with indifference to her allegations against T.J. "Sweet Tea" Bunn Jr., a member of the family behind ST Bunn Construction Co.
Rondini's parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against UA and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. Among the defendants is investigator Adam Jones, who based on news account, gave Rondini a inaccurate portrayal of Alabama law, apparently to support his finding that she had no rape case against "Sweet Tea" Bunn.
Birmingham attorney Leroy Maxwell Jr. represents the Bunn family. Here is a link to a report about the lawsuit yesterday by reporter Mary Kekatos, at UK Daily Mail.
According to BuzzFeed News, which broke the story after it had gone unnoticed by Alabama's mainstream press, Jones did not pursue the case because Rondini did not "earnestly resist" Bunn. Specifically, Jones determined no rape occurred because Rondini had not "hit or kicked" Bunn. From the BuzzFeed article, by Katie J.M. Baker:
Eventually, Jones returned to Megan’s rape allegations. “Based on your statements to me, you said that you never resisted him,” he said.
“I did resist him,” Megan said, listing the ways she did, from repeatedly telling Bunn she wanted to leave to turning away when he kissed her. “I wanted to go home,” she said. “He didn’t take me home.”
“Look at it from my side,” Jones replied calmly. “You never kicked him or hit him or tried to resist him.”

Jones shows here that, like a lot of cops, he does not know the law. That can be dangerous for many victims; it helped cost Megan Rondini her life.
Rape in the first degree is described at Code of Alabama 13A-6-61 as follows:
Rape in the first degree
(a) A person commits the crime of rape in the first degree if:
(1) He or she engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex by forcible compulsion.

"Forcible compulsion" is a key component of rape cases in many states. Here is what it means in Alabama:
Forcible compulsion is physical force that overcomes earnest resistance, or a threat, express or implied, that places a person in fear of immediate death or serious physical injury to himself/herself or another person. [13A-6-60(8)]

Alabama is one of the few states where "earnest resistance" remains a part of its rape statute.  So investigator Jones was correct to cite the term to Megan Rondini. But he was wrong about its meaning.

Tuscaloosa County investigator gave Megan Rondini a false description of Alabama rape law, ensuring her claim against T.J. Bunn Jr. would come to a standstill

T.J. "Sweet Tea" Bunn

A case styled Lucas v. State of Alabama (Ala. Ct. of Crim. App., 2016) is the most recent case to address the issue of earnest resistance. The court's holding came after it had addressed other issues commonly found in rape cases -- "consent," "force," and "intent to gratify." From the Lucas opinion:
`"Earnest resistance" is likewise a relative term, and when determining whether there was earnest resistance, the relative strength of the victim and the defendant, the victim's age, the victim's physical and mental condition, and the degree of force employed must be considered.' C.M. v. State, 889 So. 2d at 64 (citing Richards v. State, 475 So. 2d 893, 895 (Ala. Crim. App. 1985))."

As you can see, there is nothing here about a requirement to "kick or hit" the alleged attacker. Megan Rondini likely was smaller and less strong than "Sweet Tea" Bunn, she was younger than Mr. Bunn, evidence suggests alcohol had left her in a compromised physical and mental state, and Mr. Bunn allegedly pulled on her clothing, even after she said she did not want to have sex with him and wanted to go home.
Under Alabama law, Adam Jones had more than enough evidence to bring a solid rape case. It appears he simply did not want to.
We have found other case law that throws a wrench into Jones' contention that a rape victim must "kick or hit" her alleged attacker in order to bring a criminal case in Alabama. We will address that in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)

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