LEE CO., Ala (WRBL) –  The first defendant to go to trial and be found guilty in the Auburn Tiger Transit rape case has been sentenced. Tony Patillo was sentenced to 21 years and three months in prison, with time served for the rape and sodomy conviction of an Auburn University student passed out on a Tiger Transit bus back in 2017.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes is not happy with the sentencing.

“The Tiger Transit Rapist was sentenced today to 255 months on the Rape I and Sodomy I. That’s just over 21 years for what this monster did to this young lady in one of the worst cases I have ever prosecuted. To say I am stunned and disappointed in the sentence would be a gross understatement. I asked for a life sentence because I truly feel that is what the defendant deserved in this case. While I was not hopeful that I would get a life sentence, I never imagined this. I am proud of the work we did convicting him which is all we control. We handled our business. Sentencing is 100% out of our hands,” said Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes.

A Lee County jury found 53-year-old Tony Patillo guilty of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old Auburn University student back in September of 2017.

Patillo is one of two former Tiger Transit drivers charged in the case. Defendant James Johnson Jr. will go to trial at a later date.
 
Patillo, who is from Columbus, Georgia,  is faced  First Degree Rape of a Physically Helpless person,  First Degree Sodomy of a Physically Helpless person and Public Lewdness.  The jury could have included lesser-included charges.
 
Prosecutors say video evidence from cameras on the Tiger Transit bus show Patillo raped and forced a defenseless girl – to perform oral sex while she was intoxicated and blacking out.  

On the video jurors heard Patillo referring to the victim as, “knocked out huh”  before the alleged sexual assault takes place. Patillo can be seen fondling her private parts, while the victim lays on the seat. District Attorney Brandon Hughes described her looking like a dead body during the assault.

The video also shows Patillo taking the student to the back of the bus and telling the second defendant and driver James Johnson to turn off the lights. Prosecutors say this is when Patillo raped her and pointed out the victim’s leg wrapped around Patillo’s back in the video. The lights come back on when a person enters the bus. The video then shows Patillo guiding the student into giving him oral sex.

Afterward – the video shows Patillo leading the student off the bus near creekside apartments.  Prosecutors say the heroes, in this case, are four young women who testified they saw a man leading a girl who looks intoxicated off a Tiger Transit bus. The girls later called police after seeing the man in a bus driver uniform with his pants down on top of a girl.
 
The victim testified she did not give consent. She testified she was so intoxicated she did not remember the alleged assault. DNA evidence links the victim’s DNA to the defendant’s underwear and privates.
     
Patillo’s defense claimed the sexual encounter was consensual. Patillo did not take the stand in his own case, in fact, the defense did not call any witnesses. The defense says DNA evidence fails to prove a rape actually happened.

Lee County District Attorney: “To say I’m disappointed in the Tiger Transit rape sentence is a gross understatement.”

As Patillo sits in jail, he leaves behind two grandchildren and six kids. His oldest daughter, Tonika Patillo, feels as though her father was wrongfully convicted. 

“Personally, I think he shouldn’t have been on trial. Period. Honestly,” she says.

She believes that despite the sentencing, her father was and still is a good man. 

“He’s been a great father and a great grandad. This situation does not deter from what type of person that he is. Throughout this whole process, he does have our full support,” she added.

Tonika says she’ll see appeals process through– in the meantime, she’ll keep on living her life.

“I come see him as often as I can, so me talking to him and seeing him. He’s not missing a beat,” Tonika says. 

“At the end of the day I don’t think this man, he’s 53 years old. His days as a free man need to be over,” D.A. Hughes added.