The attorney of an Alabama man who was accused of sexual assault by a former University of Alabama student took a full-page out in yesterday’s Tuscaloosa News, claiming that he is innocent and the victim’s text messages prove that any sexual encounter was consensual.
The student, Megan Rondini, killed herself after she told police that T.J. Bunn, 36, raped her at his home. Her parents have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bunn, as well as two university employees and various members of the Tuscaloosa County sheriff’s office for allegedly mishandling the case.
But Bunn’s lawyer, Ivey Gilmore, claimed that Rondini’s text messages showed that his client was innocent of the rape charge.
"To be clear, this case is not a matter of 'he said, she said,''' Gilmore wrote. "It is this young woman's own words, and her own text messages that led every investigating authority to conclude she had not been sexually assaulted."
Lawyers for Rondini’s family claim that these texts are being taken out of context.
"This paid advertisement reeks of desperation and is a clear attempt to bully the Rondini Family,'' said Ontario Tillman of the Maxwell Law Firm, according to The Birmingham News. "The text messages Sweet-T's lawyer refer to show exactly how a situation can devolve into a nightmare in a matter of minutes. It's no accident that this paid ad carefully avoids to mention the messages and phone calls that occurred immediately after that tragic night. This is classic case of victim blaming and a sad attempt to justify a sexual assault."
Rondini’s claims grew to national prominence last month after a BuzzFeed report by Katie J.M. Baker highlighted ways in which Bunn’s wealthy family appeared to exact improper influence over university and sheriff officials. Investigators asked why hadn’t Rondini “kicked him or hit him,” and even began to build a case against Rondini herself, who fearfully took a gun from Bunn while escaping his house.
They also did not give Megan a toxicology report, even though she believed she had been drugged, and asked her if she wanted to refuse to prosecute early on in her statement, according to Baker’s report.