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, an honors student at the University of Alabama, met 34-year-old T.J. Bunn at a Tuscaloosa bar. After accepting a ride home from him that evening, Rondini alleged that he then raped her in his mansion. She reported the alleged assault to the police and underwent a forensic exam the next morning. 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 said that after she made the accusation, the college student "was mistreated by Tuscaloosa County investigators, the university and DCH Regional Medical Center," Alabama.com reported. She ultimately left school and moved back to Texas. She died by suicide in 2016.
In 2017, Buzzfeed published a lengthy investigative piece about Rondini and the arcane Alabama's rape laws that put the onus on victims to prove they'd "earnestly resisted" an assault conducted with physical, forcible compulsion— a burden of proof that has historically been nearly impossible to meet in criminal court. In 2019 legislation was introduced to strike "physical force" and "earnest resistance" from the language of the law.
Bunn has never been charged in criminal court.
Bunn's legal team had attempted to block a wrongful death lawsuit brought against him on the grounds that because Rondini took her own life the suit was no longer valid. 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.
“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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