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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Alabama Supreme Court Backs Joe Perkins/Matrix

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on September 27, 2022


On September 23, 2022, the Alabama Supreme Court handed controversial Alabama political “dirty tricks” operative Joe Perkins and his firm, Matrix, LLC, a legal victory in his $1.5 million defamation case against Donald V. Watkins, P.C., and me.

On August 20, 2021, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Allen May awarded Perkins and Matrix the $1.5 million judgment without conducting a trial in the case, even though the material facts in the case were hotly disputed by the evidence proffered by the defense. The defendants also asserted their constitutional rights to the legal protections afforded to journalists under the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan.

On Friday, the nine-member, all-white, all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Judge May’s $1.5 million judgment without issuing a written opinion that addressed the legal issues the defendants raised on appeal. [Click here to read the Court decision].

Among the issues on appeal is this one: Whether Alabama’s system of at-large elections and gubernatorial appointments, which has consistently produced all-white appellate courts in a state that is 26% black, violates the defendants’ constitutional rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments? By not issuing a written opinion, the Supreme Court ducked an answer to this important question.

Is Truth a Defense to a Defamation Claim in Alabama?

In October and November of 2017, I published a series of exclusive articles on my Facebook page that exposed the role Joe Perkins and his "dirty tricks" firm Matrix, LLC, played in the rape-suicide case of Megan Rondini, a well-liked and highly-respected University of Alabama honors student.

On July 2, 2015, Megan Rondini reported to Tuscaloosa County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office deputies that she was raped at the home of local playboy T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn, Jr., a Tuscaloosa County businessman and then-member of the Alabama State Conservation Board. Rondini also made the same report to a rape counselor at the University of Alabama.

"Sweet T" is the son of a powerful Alabama Crimson Tide football program booster, who has since died. His wealthy family was also friends and supporters of disgraced former Alabama governor and Perkins political "puppet," Robert Bentley.

Sheriff’s deputies quickly turned against Megan Rondini once they realized "Sweet T" was the designated rape suspect. Additionally, the University's rape counselor withdrew from counseling Rondini after she learned that "Sweet T" was the accused rapist.

Once she realized there would be no criminal justice in her rape case, a distraught Megan Rondini committed suicide.

In July 2017, Buzzfeed News featured Megan Rondini's tragic story in a widely disseminated international article. My investigative articles followed. They provided undisclosed details of the police cover-up and failure of criminal justice in Rondini's rape-suicide case.

My articles also presented the cold, hard, truth about what happened to Megan Rondini, why, and who was involved.

Perkins/Matrix Sued Watkins for “Defamation”

On November 13, 2017, Joe Perkins and Matrix sued my law firm (Donald V. Watkins, P.C.) and me for “defamation.” I asserted First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of the press defenses.

Perkins and Matrix claimed that my articles portrayed them in a false light by describing the role they played in the Megan Rondini rape-suicide case.

The articles in question were based upon my conversation with Joe Perkins, my independent research and multiple background sources, my interviews with Megan Rondini's father, information supplied by confidential and credible news sources, and forensic evidence. The sources for these articles were described in a deposition I gave in the case and were ignored by Judge May and the Supreme Court.

Joe Perkins gave the court a sworn affidavit in the case in which he stated: "I have never taken any actions to obstruct the truth in any rape case, including the rape allegations raised by Ms. [Megan] Rondini and her family."

Perkins' affidavit testimony was enough to convince Judge May into awarding Matrix and him a $1.5 million judgment against my law firm and me in August 2021 without conducting the jury trial I requested under Alabama law.

I appealed this $1.5 million Judgment to the Alabama Supreme Court. The nine-member Supreme Court sided with Perkins and Matrix, without comment.

Jeff Pitts Confirmed Perkins'/Matrix’s Role in the Rondini Case

On August 3, 2022, Jeff Pitts, Matrix's former CEO, filed an Answer in a lawsuit Perkins filed against him in Jefferson County, Alabama Circuit Court. The Answer contained a bombshell revelation about the Megan Rondini rape-suicide case. In his Sixth Defense, Pitts stated:

"Defendant Pitts was compelled to resign [his job as chief executive officer of Matrix] because of Perkins' inappropriate and unethical business practices, including, but not limited to, initiating and directing the creation of an explicit video used in an attempt to intimidate the family of Megan Rondini, a rape victim who had committed suicide, to settle a civil claim [filed by her estate]....".

Pitts' statement confirms what I reported about Perkins’/Matrix’s role in the Rondini case.

On October 26, 2017, I broke the news about Perkins' fake video in an article titled "Matrix, LLC, Implicated in Threat Against Megan Rondini Family." The article stated:

"On October 4th, Matrix created a big problem for the Bunn family and itself. On this date, Matrix surreptitiously delivered a plain envelope addressed to the law office of the Rondini family's Birmingham attorney that contained an EMTEC M700 16GB flash drive with two nude photos -- one of a male and another one with a male and female in bed -- and a one-minute-long 'video diary Number #1' recorded by Megan while she was home alone, sitting up in her bed, playfully talking about her evening at Harry's Bar, and eating a snack.....

The purpose of the flash drive was to threaten and intimidate the Rondini family, which has a federal court wrongful death lawsuit pending against Sweet T and other defendants for causing or contributing to Megan's suicide after he escaped criminal justice in the case ....

Information technology forensic experts examined the flash drive and found that it contained a host of information from a laptop used by Matrix employee Robert Taylor ....”.

In an October 29, 2017 article titled, "Bunn Family PR Firm Linked to Recent Cyber Attacks," I again discussed Matrix's creation and delivery of the fake video to the Rondini family's law firm.

Despite my introduction of the flash drive photo, Metadata, and other credible evidence of Matrix's direct involvement in the Megan Rondini rape-suicide case, Judge Allen May and the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of Perkins and Matrix.

Perkins' Longtime Friend Also Confirmed Matrix's Role in the Rondini Rape Case

Paul Hamrick is a longtime friend, former client, and one-time employee of Joe Perkins. On June 7, 2022, Hamrick issued this stark warning to the public about Joe Perkins on his Facebook page:

"Today there is a different nature to Joe [Perkins]. [H]is threats and acts of intimidation have grown much worse and been directed at women and children. In one of the most inhumane acts I can imagine, Joe created a fake set of files and had them delivered to the family attorney of a rape-suicide victim [Megan Rondini], apparently to intimidate them against pursuing litigation .....

I have worked with abuse victims since the late 80s. I'd like to say I've never known a human being capable of such a monstrous act, but that would not be true because I know Joe Perkins. Let that sink in, attempting to intimidate a father who has lost his young daughter. It breaks my heart to think someone I've been so close to could carry out such an abomination against humanity.”

Alabama's Judicial System Gave Birth to New York Times v. Sullivan

Alabama's judicial system gave birth to the use of defamation lawsuits as a means to chill the First Amendment freedom of speech of political progressives, independent journalists, and social justice activists. The famous New York Times v. Sullivan case arose from the concerted efforts of white Alabama elected officials and state court judges to use defamation lawsuits to quash local, state, and national support for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1960s civil rights movement.

Not only did state officials indict Dr. King on two felony counts of perjury in connection with his state tax returns for 1956 and 1958, but they also joined local officials in naming Dr. King and four other prominent black ministers -- Reverends Ralph Abernathy, Solomon S. Seay, Fred L. Shuttlesworth, and Joseph Lowery -- as defendants in their defamation case against the New York Times. The state court trial judge "homecooked" the defendants during the trial. An all-white jury ruled against all of the defendants, who were ordered to pay a $500,000 judgment.

The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict and judgment against the New York Times, Dr. King, and the other four black ministers. The defendants thereafter appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On March 9, 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling because the plaintiffs in the case, who were public officials, failed to prove that the defendants acted with "actual malice" in publishing the statements at issue or that the statements were published with a "reckless disregard of whether [they were] true or false." In subsequent cases, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed this same high burden of proof on "public figures" like Joe Perkins and Matrix when they sue members of the press and public for defamation.

Judge Allen May and the Alabama Supreme Court engaged in the same old fashion "homecooking" in Perkins' case that was viewed with disfavor in New York Times v. Sullivan. They also ruled against my law firm, even though my firm had no Facebook page and did not write or endorse any of the editorial views expressed in my articles.


Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Reverends Ralph Abernathy, Solomon S. Seay, Fred L. Shuttlesworth, and Joseph Lowery, I must now appeal my First Amendment case to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to protect freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Alabama.

I also want to give the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to rule on whether Alabama's all-white Supreme Court is constitutionally permissible in a state that has a 26% black population and a well-documented, unrelenting history of discrimination against its black citizens, from the cradle to the grave.

IMAGE: Joe Perkins, owner of Matrix, LLC.

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