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Bonds v. Gordy

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

February 11, 2019

LANICE BONDS, # 295612, Petitioner,
CHRISTOPHER GORDY, et al., Respondents.



         This case is before the court on a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by Alabama inmate Lanice Bonds (“Bonds). Doc. 1.[1]


         On June 9, 2014, Bonds pleaded guilty in the Houston County Circuit Court to the charge of being a school employee who engaged in a sex act with a student under the age of 19 years, in violation of § 13A-6-81, Ala. Code 1975. Doc. 8-2 at 40-59. On July 21, 2014, the trial court sentenced Bonds to 10 years in prison. Doc. 8-2 at 63-74.

         Bonds appealed, arguing he was not a “school employee, ” as that term is used in § 13A-6-81, Ala. Code 1975. Doc. 8-3. Bonds reserved his right to appeal this issue before entering his guilty plea. He had raised the issue in a motion to dismiss the indictment, which the trial court denied after a hearing. See Doc. 8-1 at 119-226; Doc. 8-2 at 2-40.

         In an opinion entered on September 18, 2015, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. Bonds v. State, 205 So.3d 1270 (Ala.Crim.App.2015); see Doc. 8-4. In holding that Bonds was a school employee within the meaning of § 13A-6-81, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals stated:

As noted above, Bonds was convicted for a violation of § 13A-6-81, Ala. Code 1975. That section provides, in relevant part:
“(a) A person commits the crime of a school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19 years if he or she is a school employee and engages in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student, regardless of whether the student is male or female. Consent is not a defense to a charge under this section.”
The legislature has not specifically defined “school employee” in the context of § 13A-6-81, but § 13A-6-80 lists persons considered to be “school employees” for purposes of § 13A-6-81. Section 13A-6-80, Ala. Code 1975, provides: “For purposes of this article, school employee includes a teacher, school administrator, student teacher, safety or resource officer, coach, and other school employee” (emphasis added). Bonds concedes that he was a “resource officer.” (See, e.g., Bonds's brief, p. 14 (“It cannot be disputed that [Bonds] was a school resource [sic] at Dothan High School. . . .”).) Thus, a simple reading of § 13A-6-80 indicates that, because of his position as a “resource officer” assigned to Dothan High School, Bonds was a “school employee” under § 13A-6-81.
In addition to Bonds's concession that he was a “resource officer, ” the evidence presented at the hearing on the motion to dismiss consistently refers to Bonds as a resource officer or school-resource officer. Even so, Bonds urges this Court to go beyond the language of the relevant statutes and to construe that language in light of the terms of his particular employment arrangement with the Dothan Police Department. Bonds argues that the evidence from the hearing on the motion to dismiss established that he was solely an employee of the Dothan Police Department and not of the Dothan Board of Education or Dothan High School. Under Bonds's reading of the relevant statutes, his title as a “resource officer” is irrelevant; rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the school was actually responsible for paying his wages and ultimately had the authority to control his job duties as a resource officer.
The first problem with Bonds's interpretation of the relevant statutes, however, is that, as noted above, his job title-“resource officer”-is specifically included in the list of persons in § 13A-6-80. The phrase “school employee includes” followed by several job titles in § 13A-6-80 indicates a nonexhaustive list of positions the legislature has declared to be “school employees” for purposes of Title 13A, Chapter 6, Article 4A. The examples listed in § 13A-6-80 include positions such as “student teacher” and “coach, ” which might not meet a traditional test for employment because, depending on the circumstances, those positions might be volunteer, unpaid, or ultimately not controlled by a particular school's administration. Accordingly, § 13A-6-80 is a clear expression by the legislature that the term “school employee” in Title 13A, Chapter 6, Article 4A, is not limited to those persons who meet a traditional, technical definition of employment by a school's administration, such as the definition Bonds urges upon this Court. As the Alabama Supreme Court has stated:
“‘In another context, this Court explained that the word “‘including' is not to be regarded as limitational or restrictive, but merely as a particular specification of something to be included or to constitute a part of some other thing.” Sims v. Moore, 288 Ala. 630, 635, 264 So.2d 484, 487 (1972) (emphasis added). “‘Including' is not a word of limitation, rather it is a word of enlargement, and in ordinary significance also may imply that something else has been given beyond the general language which precedes it.” Id. (emphasis added).'” Bon Harbor, LLC v. United Bank, 53 So.3d 82, 93 (Ala. 2010) (quoting Southeastern Meats of Pelham, Inc. v. City of Birmingham, 895 So.2d 909, 913 (Ala. 2004)). Cf. Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 132 (2012) (“[T]he word include does not ordinarily introduce an exhaustive list. . . .”).
The second problem with Bonds's interpretation is that it renders § 13A-6-80 unnecessary. If a “school employee” is simply a “school employee, ” we question why the legislature would deem it necessary to provide examples in § 13A-6-80. Cf. § 13A-1-6, Ala. Code 1975 (“All provisions of this title shall be construed according to the fair import of their terms to promote justice and to effect the objects of the law, including the purposes stated in Section 13A-1-3.”); see also Hatcher v. Diggs, 76 Ala. 189, 193 (1884) (“Some effect must be allowed to every word, or phrase, and such interpretation adopted, if reasonable, that no word or phrase will be repugnant to any other provision, or be unnecessary and superfluous. Says Lord Coke: ‘The good expositor makes every sentence have its operation to suppress all the mischiefs; he gives effect to every word in the statute; he does not construe it so that any thing should be vain and superfluous, nor yet makes exposition against express words.'”).
Adopting Bonds's interpretation-and rendering § 13A-6-80 superfluous-would lead to yet another problem: Thwarting a manifest purpose of § 13A-6-81. Section 13A-1-3, Ala. Code 1975, provides: “The general purposes of the provisions of this title are: (1) To proscribe conduct that unjustifiably and inexcusably causes or threatens substantial harm to individual and/or public interests. . . .” At a minimum, § 13A-6-81 seeks to prevent those persons holding positions of authority or influence at a school from having sex with students. Here, the evidence indicated that Bonds had been a resource officer at multiple schools. He wore his police uniform to his job at the school and worked at special school events. He even had an office at the school-where he took the victim in this case and had sex with her on his desk. Bonds's reading of the relevant statutes would thwart their purpose, and we reject it. Cf. Scalia & Garner, Reading Law 63 (“A ...

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