Judge Dennis Odell of Madison County heard motions for the Donald Tipper rape/sodomy case at the Lauderdale County Courthouse this morning. Tipper’s attorney, Billy Underwood, argued that allegations of Tipper’s previous contact with one client was not admissible as evidence. He also argued the victim had made allegations of a certain nature to her ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, and emergency room personnel at ECM Hospital which were vast contradictions from statements she made to Attorney General Investigator Chris McRae and Florence Detective Shannon Harris.
There was one other matter in the hearing that concerned a statement made on the victim’s Facebook, which stated “I love feeding on the weak-minded. There are too many inconsiderate a**holes out there trying to take advantage of those of us who know what the F is going on.”
After over an hour and a half of argument from Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Billingslea and Underwood, the Honorable Dennis Odell ruled that the State of Alabama could not say anything about Donald Tipper’s previous contact with a client, that Tipper (through his attorney) would be able to bring up an explicit statement made by the victim which contradicted what she told government investigators, and her Facebook hobbies in which she “loved feeding on the weak-minded” would be admissible to the jury to show her mental state.
of the court ruling, the parties spoke and the State of Alabama offered a misdemeanor sexual misconduct charge to Tipper. He received a 12-month suspended sentence and he walked out of the courthouse.
His attorney, Billy Underwood, stated “It was an extremely hard decision to make to plead to a misdemeanor.” Underwood felt that he was well-enough prepared to win the case with the testimony of over 20 individuals in the community and medical reports from ECM Hospital which pointed out glaring discrepancies in the victim’s statement made to governmental authorities. “It was with great regret that Tipper and I realized a plea deal would be the most conservative and safe action in this case. Up until the judge ruled, the State of Alabama had never offered any form of plea deal and the case was to be tried before the jury assembled morning” said Underwood.
Underwood stated the punishment for rape and sodomy was ten years to life. “There is no way I, as an attorney, could guarantee Tipper one hundred percent that we could win. The most conservative and best route to take would be the plea deal and take the lumps where they landed. Tipper’s age would make a conviction of either one of the charges a death sentence.” Leigh Anne Landis, a new attorney in Tuscumbia, helped Underwood with the trial.
The official sentencing order requires Mr. Tipper to register as a sex offender; therefore, he will not be able at this time to seek reinstatement of his law license.