Family of former UA student file wrongful death lawsuit against alleged rapist, university, and sheriff’s office

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — The family of Megan Rondini, a former student at the University of Alabama, is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against her alleged rapist, TJ Bunn Jr., following her suicide in 2016.

According to Rondini’s parents, they believe Bunn escaped prosecution because he is from a prominent and wealthy family in Tuscaloosa.

RELATED: Family of former UA student to file Title IX complaint, following suicide

The lawsuit also includes officials from the University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, who the family says mishandled her rape claims.

“Everybody in that complaint had a hand to it, from the rapist all the way to the University Title IX office,” said Michael Rondini, Megan’s father. “Had anybody made that extra effort, I think it would have made a difference.”

While the lawsuit asks for damages, the Rondinis said they are not interested in the money, and that they plan to donate any money awarded to them in this case to groups that advocate for women’s rights and victims of rape.

“Nothing will take away the pain (Megan) suffered. What it may do is change those institutions so it doesn’t happen to some other men or women,” Michael Rondini said.

TJ Bunn Jr.’s attorney has released a statement to CBS 42 in response to the wrongful death lawsuit.

You can read the statement below.

The allegations against my client as set forth in this baseless lawsuit are simply false. No sexual assault occurred. Law enforcement investigated this matter; the District Attorney’s Office reviewed the evidence; the evidence was even presented to a grand jury that found there was no justification for charges against my client. It is, perhaps, natural to want to find someone to blame when a young woman takes her life. But accusing law enforcement and those who counseled this young woman for her actions is misguided. Unfortunately, bringing this matter before the courts in this civil action will only prolong grief without changing the reality.

Wednesday afternoon, the University of Alabama issued this statement to CBS 42:

Although The University of Alabama is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the Rondini family related to an alleged sexual assault that occurred off campus, Beth Howard, our Title IX coordinator, and Cara Blakes, a national certified counselor and former UA employee, are.  Even though no University employee or student was involved in the alleged assault against Megan Rondini, from the moment The University became aware of Megan’s needs, Ms. Howard and her team handled their responsibilities with care at all times keeping Megan’s wellbeing as their absolute highest priority. Ms. Howard is widely respected as one of the best in her field. She has built a team of professionals who are well trained and highly regarded for the important work they do. We will vigorously defend them.

Megan’s death is a tragedy.  Our hearts go out to her loved ones who grieve her loss alongside our University family.  Out of respect to Megan, the Rondini family, and the judicial process, The University does not intend to comment further on the substance of the lawsuit’s allegations, but we reiterate that a variety of counseling and other services are available to our students regardless of any need they may have. 

The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office also weighed in Wednesday afternoon with a Facebook post:

The law enforcement officers of Tuscaloosa County are some of the finest men and women of the profession, and they are extremely dedicated to ensuring that justice is carried out fairly and impartially. There has been a recent onslaught of negative media attention directed at these officers due to a one-sided, social media article that did not present all the facts of a tragic case. The article failed to mention the conflicting statements from the parties involved as well as much of the actual evidence of the case. Public opinion has been negatively influenced based on partial, and somewhat misleading, information presented by a media outlet.

This case, and all of its evidence, was presented to an impartial Grand Jury, which heard it in its entirety. That Grand Jury determined that there was not sufficient probable cause, under Alabama law, to determine that a crime had been committed, and they refused to indict. This decision was based on the evidence presented. This is part of the due process that our legal system is bound to afford every citizen. We are confident that the court will find that the Sheriff’s Office, and all officers involved in the investigation, acted professionally and appropriately. The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is committed to fair and impartial enforcement of the laws of Alabama, which is in stark contrast to the way we were presented in this recent misleading article.

The Facebook post is likely referring to this Buzzfeed article, which catapulted Rondini’s case into the spotlight when it was published last month.

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