The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a man who allegedly raped a college student in 2015 can be sued for wrongful death after his accuser later died by suicide.
In July of 2015, 20-year-old Megan Rondini met 34-year-old T.J. Bunn at a Tuscaloosa bar. At the time, Rondini was an honors student at the University of Alabama while Bunn worked in an unspecified position at ST Bunn Construction Company, Buzzfeed.com reported in 2017. After accepting a ride home from Bunn, Rondini alleged that he raped her in his mansion; she reported the alleged assault to the police and underwent a forensic exam at the time. Bunn, whose family are major donors to the University of Alabama, has alleged that he had consensual sex with Rondini.
Rondini’s family and friends have previously stated that after making the accusation, the college student “was mistreated by Tuscaloosa County investigators, the university and DCH Regional Medical Center,” as Alabama.com reported. She ultimately left school and moved back to Texas. She died by suicide in 2016.
Bunn’s legal team attempted to block a wrongful death lawsuit brought on behalf of Rondini’s parents. They argued that because Rondini had died by suicide, the suit could not go forward. On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against him, finding that the “possibility that the suicide was linked to Rondini’s allegation meant the suit can continue,” reports the Tuscaloosa News.
The court also found that Rondini’s family provided ample evidence in their suit that Bunn had indeed sexually assaulted Rondini.
“Bunn made a technical argument, not an innocence argument. He made a technical argument saying since she killed herself, he should no longer be responsible for damages,’’ Leroy Maxwell, the Rondini family attorney told Alabama.com.
In 2017, Buzzfeed wrote a lengthy investigative piece about Rondini and Alabama’s rape laws At the time, they stated that victims of alleged sexual assault must prove they “earnestly resisted their attackers” — a burden of proof that’s almost impossible to meet in criminal court.
Bunn was never charged with a crime.
“She did everything that she could to protect herself and to get help,” Megan’s father, Mike Rondini, told Buzzfeed. “She should have gotten that help, and she didn’t. That is a failure on everybody’s part.”
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