• Donald V. Watkins

Why Has Auburn University Paid Joe Perkins $367,500 Since 2019?

Updated: Nov 1

By: Donald V. Watkins

October 17, 2021


An Editorial Opinion


Matrix, LLC, is a political consulting and crisis management firm owned and operated by longtime Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based "dirty tricks" operative Joseph Perkins. The company is currently embroiled in a red-hot crisis of its own. Former Matrix chief executive officer Jeff Pitts is suing Perkins in a Florida state court in a lawsuit that charges Perkins with engaging in a pattern and practice of criminal racketeering activities, extortion, abuse of the judicial process in Alabama, and unlawfully accessing the social media accounts of Pitts' clients.


Auburn University's payments of $367,500 (from September 11, 2019 through September 30, 2021) to a bona fide "dirty tricks' operator has raised a host of red flags on campus. This is particularly true in light of: (a) a rash of sexual assaults on Auburn's campus since the start of the 2021-22 academic year and (b) Perkins' attempt to intimidate the family of a high-profile rape victim who committed suicide after Tuscaloosa County law enforcement officials declined to prosecute her accused rapist. The latest annual safety report from Auburn lists 12 rapes being reported on the main campus in 2019.

Perkins Has a Prior History of Flaunting the Law and Associating With Convicted Criminals


Perkins has a prior history of flaunting the law and associating with convicted criminals. Yet, Auburn University's administration embraces him, financially and otherwise.


In 1988, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) referred Perkins to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution in a case where the FEC determined that Perkins used the names of his employees to launder $8,000 in campaign funds to the Congressional campaign of Roy Johnson. Perkins escaped criminal prosecution only because the special three-year statute of limitations on federal charges of making illegal campaign contributions had expired by the referral date.


Perkins had close ties to Roy Johnson, who served as a former Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives (1974 to 1990) and the chancellor of the Alabama College System (2002 to 2008) who oversaw 30 public post-secondary institutions. In 2008, Johnson pled guilty to 15 counts of federal bribery, conspiracy, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice charges in connection with a fraud scheme that funneled $18 million in taxpayers' money to 43 legislators, their relatives, and their associated business. Several of the beneficiaries of the fraud scheme kicked back as much as $300,000 in cash to Johnson and his wife. Johnson was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.


Johnson joins a long list of Perkins' political friends, allies, and associates who have criminal records. Some of Perkins' other well-known convicted criminal friends, allies, and associates include former Alabama state representative Oliver Robinson, former Alabama governor Robert Bentley, and former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Additionally, many of the 43 legislators associated with Roy Johnson's bribery scandal were political friends, allies, and associates of Joe Perkins.


Perkins' Involvement in the High-Profile Megan Rondini Rape Case


In 2017, Perkins inserted himself and Matrix into the 2015 high-profile Megan Rondini rape case. Rondini was a University of Alabama honors student who committed suicide after the University failed to help her seek justice against her accused rapist -- Tuscaloosa Playboy T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn, Jr. Rondini's rape case made national news when BuzzFeed published a June 22, 2017 article about the case titled, "A College Student Accused a Powerful Man of Rape: Then She Became a Suspect."


On October 4, 2017, Matrix surreptitiously delivered a flash-drive to the law firm that represented Rondini's estate in a lawsuit against Sweet T, The University of Alabama, and other defendants for her wrongful death. The flash-drive contained two nude photos -- one of a male and another one with a male and female in bed. It also contained 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 in Tuscaloosa. The video and photos were extracted from Megan's cell phone during the police investigation into her rape report. An information technology expert examined the flash-drive and found that it contained a host of information from a laptop used by Matrix employee Robert Taylor, whose email address was robert@matrixllc.com. Matrix erroneously believed the nude woman in bed with the nude man was Megan Rondini. The nude woman in the photo, which was taken in 2014, was not Megan.


The purpose behind Matrix's delivery of the flash-drive to Rondini's law firm was to threaten and intimidate the Rondini family into dropping its federal court wrongful death case against The University of Alabama, Sweet T, and the other defendants at a time when Megan's mother was dying of pancreatic cancer. The case eventually settled against all defendants, but Megan’s mother died before she could see justice served for her daughter.


In October and November of 2017, I published a series of articles about Megan Rondini's rape case and her subsequent suicide. The articles touched on the following subjects: (a) cyber attacks on my social media platforms, which I reported to Facebook and Wikipedia, (b) the smearing of Megan Rondini, her family, and me, (c) an attack ad against Megan Rondini and her family that was published in the July of 2017 in the Tuscaloosa News, (d) coordinated efforts by Sweet T and his Tuscaloosa allies to obstruct the truth and justice of what happened to Rondini on the night of July 1, 2015, (e) how rape victims are re-victimized by allies of the rape suspect, and (f) other topics related to the rape report Megan Rondini made to Tuscaloosa County sheriff deputies during the early morning of July 2, 2015.


Perkins later sued me for defamation because I exposed Matrix's role in Megan Rondini's rape case. Perkins swore that neither he, nor Matrix, had any involvement in the Rondini case. The hand-delivered Matrix flash-drive and Perkins' handwritten notes flatly contradict his sworn court declaration.


Yet, in May of 2021, a Tuscaloosa state court judge disregarded the well-known legal protections for First Amendment freedom of speech that are enunciated in the 1964 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Sullivan (and its progeny), and ruled in Perkins' favor without conducting a trial. On August 20, 2021, the same judge awarded Perkins and Matrix a highly questionable and speculative $1.5 million in compensatory damages. The case is on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.


Auburn University Led the Nation in Awareness and Prevention of Sexual Assaults on Campus in 2017; Then Perkins Showed Up


On September 19, 2017, I published an article praising Auburn University senior Nicole Finley for leading a highly successful campaign on campus to promote the awareness of sexual assaults and their prevention through her innovative Green Dot Program. At the time, Auburn and Ms. Finley were leading the nation in combating sexual assaults on college campuses.


Two years later, Matrix showed up on Auburn's payroll. The company began its work on September 11, 2019 and has been paid $15,000 per month for a total of $367,500, as of September 30, 2021. The payments are for unspecified "Professional Services." They are paid from the "AU Main Campus Unrestricted" funds.


Perkins, who was ranked Number 14 on Yellowhammer News' list of "Power and Influence" players in Alabama in 2014, usually handles clandestine "dirty tricks" jobs for his clients. These clients have included the Alabama Education Association and Alabama Power Company, among others. The Mobile Press Register labeled Matrix as "the closest thing Alabama politics has to a non-government secret agency."


Perkins' work for Auburn is cloaked in secrecy. Perkins is not lobbying for Auburn because he has not been a registered lobbyist since 2017. It is unclear from Matrix's monthly invoices exactly what Perkins is doing for the money, which appears to flowing freely to his firm with no end in sight.


What is clear is the fact that Auburn has a sexual assault problem on campus in 2021. The problem resulted in growing student protests in September. Students are very disappointed in the University's lackluster response to this problem, particularly in light of all of the progress Nicole Finley and her supporters made against sexual assaults in 2017 with the Green Dot Program.


If Perkins is taken at his sworn word that no party to Megan Rondini's rape case or her civil lawsuit hired Matrix to perform work related to these legal matters, then Perkins and Matrix gratuitously intervened in Megan's case for the purpose of undermining justice for a rape victim. Despite Perkins' denials, Matrix's flash-drive and Perkins' handwritten notes evidence his intervention in Megan Rondini's rape case.


Epilogue


What kind of man would gratuitously intervene in a rape case for the purpose of undermining justice for a rape victim who committed suicide because her accused rapist was not criminally prosecuted?


Why is Perkins getting paid $15,000 per month to be on the scene at Auburn? What "crisis" is Perkins managing for Auburn? The University only has one crisis at this time -- the growing problem of sexual assaults on campus.


Is Perkins there to solve a problem for Auburn University, or cover up one? Regardless, why would Auburn need a "dirty tricks" operative to solve one of its problem?


Finally, why would Auburn be associated with a "dirty tricks" operative whose former chief executive officer has disassociated himself from Perkins and recently accused him of operating an ongoing criminal racketeering enterprise?


Somebody at Auburn University has a lot of serious explaining to do!



IMAGE: What is Auburn University paying Joe Perkins/Matrix LLC $15,0000 a month?

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