Thursday, November 2, 2017

T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn, who is alleged to have raped former U of Alabama student Megan Rondini before she killed herself, appears as Ashley Madison customer

T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn
A Tuscaloosa man who is alleged to have raped a former University of Alabama student, in a case where she committed suicide after returning to her home state of Texas, appears as a paying customer at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, according to publicly available records.

Terry J. Bunn Jr. -- better known as T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn -- is listed in Ashley Madison data with an address of 1570 Cedar Drive, Cottondale, AL. Spokeo shows members of the Bunn family live at that address. Hauziz shows the occupant as Terry J. Bunn, age 37.

Bunn is a member of the powerful and wealthy family behind ST Bunn Construction, which works on projects statewide and reportedly claims to have paved every street in Tuscaloosa. Former UA student Megan Rondini accused Bunn of rape from a July 2015 encounter at Bunn's home, but she met a wall of resistance from university officials and law enforcement when she sought to bring a case against "Sweet T" Bunn.

Rondini withdrew from UA, newly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She returned to her hometown of Austin, TX, and eventually enrolled at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. Missing her UA friends and unhappy at her new school, Rondini filled out an intake form at the SMU mental health center. She never turned in the form and killed herself by hanging on Feb. 26, 2016.

We sought comment from T.J. Bunn Jr. regarding Ashley Madison -- and his attorney, Ivey Gilmore, sent the following statement:

“T.J. Bunn has never been a subscriber to the Ashley Madison website. Examination of the full membership of Ashley Madison subscribers released when the website was hacked shows no mention of T.J. Bunn or his address. If you will share with me the basis for the accusation you are making, we will make a more informed response. But please understand clearly, that I am notifying you that the central accusation of your article is false.”

I sent Mr. Gilmore a copy of the entry for T.J. Bunn Jr. on the AM list for Alabama. Mr. Gilmore replied that his client's statement would remain the same.

The Rondini case came to widespread public attention when BuzzFeed News broke a story on June 22, 2017, titled "How Accusing A Powerful Man of Rape Drove A College Student To Suicide." The sub-title: "When an Alabama college student told the police she was sexually assaulted, she did everything she thought she was supposed to do. She ended up killing herself."

In our first post on the subject, we described the culture Megan Rondini faced in Tuscaloosa:

Why has the story generated a mixture of sympathy, disbelief, disgust, and outrage? Maybe it's because Rondini had leveled rape allegations against one of Tuscaloosa's elites -- T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn Jr., part of the family behind ST Bunn Construction. . . .  Sonny and Terry Bunn, the brothers who currently run the company, were major donors to former Gov. Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley, and Terry ("Sweet T's" father) served on the Bentley transition team. The Bunns are about as entrenched in Tuscaloosa culture as you can get.

That includes being major boosters of UA's powerhouse Crimson Tide football program:

The booster group in question is the Crimson Tide Foundation, founded and chaired by Paul Bryant Jr., son of the late Hall of Fame coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant. ST Bunn Construction is listed as part of the Crimson Alliance, for donors who have given from $100,000 to $499,999 to UA athletics. The foundation is closely aligned with Bryant Bank, which Bryant Jr. founded. In 2004, the Crimson Tide Foundation reported $34 million in revenue, but since has stopped reporting to the IRS in public documents.

When Megan Rondini had a sexual encounter in July 2015 at T.J. Bunn's mansion -- Bunn claims the sex was consensual -- she unknowingly walked into a swamp of big money, white privilege, secrecy, and entitlement. The BuzzFeed article suggests that the Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Office made only a half-hearted attempt to pursue Rondini's claim. Even a therapist at the University of Alabama said she could not help because she knew the Bunn family.

In subsequent posts, we showed:

(1) A Tuscaloosa County Sheriff investigator gave Rondini an inaccurate statement of Alabama law regarding "earnest resistance" in a rape case;

(2) An investigator made another inaccurate statement regarding Alabama law, claiming he could not bring a criminal charge against "Sweet T" Bunn because Rondini did not kick or hit him;

(3) Uncorroborated testimony of a rape victim can support a conviction, under Alabama law, but investigators gave Rondini no chance to take the stand;

Finally, we reported that UA's enrollment of out-of-state students has grown so rapidly that it appears Megan Rondini fell through the cracks in a system that is unable -- or unwilling -- to provide basic services and protections for the growing mass of students on campus.

That might be particularly dangerous in a town where the obsession with college football seems to trump all else. That's especially true when you consider the Bunn family's close ties to Paul Bryant Jr., the Godfather of Crimson Tide football. As a member of the board of trustees, Bryant played a major role in UA's massive enrollment growth:

The family of alleged rapist T.J. "Sweet T" Bunn Jr. was among the earliest donors to a fund-raising effort that helped launch a 14-year era of dominance for the Crimson Tide, mostly under Coach Nick Saban. Second, UA football "godfather" Paul Bryant Jr. -- the son of the late Hall of Fame coach, Bear Bryant -- was out front in an effort that led to massive enrollment gains via heavy recruitment of non-resident students, such as Megan Rondini.

The Bunn property at 1570 Cedar Drive
in Cottondale, AL
In fact, the ties between the Bunn family and Bryant appear close enough to raise this question: Did the Bunns seek Bryant's help -- he holds the state's most famous name, after all -- to help quash a possible criminal case against "Sweet T"?

How close are the Bunns and Bryant? When UA launched in March 2002 a $100-million fund-raising campaign for athletic-facility improvements, chairman of the Crimson Tradition Fund (CTF) was Paul Bryant Jr. Among the original 27 donors who formed the foundation of the CTF were Terry and Sonny Bunn -- the heads of ST Bunn Construction and the father and uncle, respectively, of "Sweet T" Bunn Jr.

According to one account, "Tuscaloosa-area law enforcement officials privately refer to Sweet T as a 'dirt bag' because of his propensity for cruising local bars and clubs in search of young coeds for sexual encounters.

The Rondini family now is seeking justice via a federal lawsuit. From our July 5 post:

Rondini's parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against UA and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. Among the defendants is investigator Adam Jones, who based on news account, gave Rondini a inaccurate portrayal of Alabama law, apparently to support his finding that she had no rape case against "Sweet T" Bunn.

Birmingham attorney Leroy Maxwell Jr. represents the Rondini family. Here is a link to a report about the lawsuit . . . by reporter Mary Kekatos, at UK Daily Mail.

Bunn's appearance on the list of paying customers for Ashley Madison -- famous for its slogan "Life is short. Have an Affair" -- seems to add to his image as what some have called a "sexual predator."


Article with links to 1-40 in Ashley Madison series

(41) David Armistead, director of enterprise sales, TekLinks, Birmingham (10/19/17)

(42) William House, VP and controller, HealthSouth, Birmingham (10/26/17)

(43) Olin B. Barnes III, VP, One Resource Group, Birmingham (11/1/17)

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