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Alabama settles portion of lawsuit over student suicide

February 27, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The University of Alabama will provide $400,000 to assist sexual assault victims under a settlement announced Tuesday to end a lawsuit filed by the parents of a Texas woman who killed herself after reporting an assault as a student.

A joint statement released by the school and the parents of Megan Rondini said Alabama is committing $250,000 to a center that helps victims of sexual assault. The university said it will spend $150,000 by the end of 2019 to add workers to address sexual misconduct.

Rondini will be awarded a degree posthumously in May, and the school will provide $50,000 for a scholarship in her name.

“The university and the Rondinis share the desire to eliminate sexual misconduct and, in the event it does occur, provide support to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable,” said the statement, posted on the university website.

Michael and Cindy Rondini of Austin, Texas, filed suit last year against law enforcement and the university claiming their daughter killed herself in 2016 after being sexually assaulted while attending Alabama in 2015. The suit contends officials mishandled the claims.

The lawsuit, which sought an unspecified amount of money, contended the university failed to protect Rondini from T.J. Bunn Jr., whose relatives own a road-building company and are donors to Alabama athletics, according to the lawsuit. The university violated its own policies and federal law by failing to properly assist Rondini after she reported what had happened, the suit claimed.

Rondini, then a 20-year-old junior who planned to go to medical school, met Bunn at a Tuscaloosa bar in July 2015, according to the complaint. She was later sexually assaulted at his home, possibly after being drugged, the suit contends.

Bunn is named in the lawsuit but was not charged with a crime. His attorneys placed a full-page advertisement in The Tuscaloosa News last year publicly identifying Bunn and stating that messages sent by Rondini before the encounter showed it was consensual.

In court, Bunn has filed documents saying that his sexual encounter with the woman was consensual and denying any assault occurred.

A deputy is asking a judge to dismiss claims against him and other law enforcement named in the lawsuit, but the judge handling the case hasn’t ruled.

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