Orlando Bradford

In this September 2017 file photo, Orlando Bradford, a former running back for the Arizona Wildcats, lowers his head just before he was taken into custody after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to five years in prison on Monday, Nov. 20.

Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star

University of Arizona attorneys have denied that the athletic department ever claimed to have a “zero-tolerance” policy toward domestic violence, in response to a federal lawsuit.

A woman who was assaulted by former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford filed the lawsuit earlier this month, saying that the UA knew that Bradford had been abusive towards women but failed to take action to protect other students.

Bradford was arrested last year and charged with 10 felonies and five misdemeanors after two other women told police that Bradford hit and choked them on multiple occasions.

Five days after Bradford’s first arrest and subsequent dismissal from the team, UA coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters: “We have a rule. You put your hands on a woman, you’re done. That’s it. If you did it, if you put your hands on a woman in any way, shape or form, you’re done. Next.”

The UA’s response to the lawsuit doesn’t address that specific statement by Rodriguez, but denies a portion of the lawsuit that says the athletic department had a “zero-tolerance” policy for acts of domestic violence committed by athletes on or off campus, and that a single act would result in expulsion from the team.

The lawsuit’s claims of negligence, civil rights violation and intentional inflection of emotional distress stem from the victim’s discovery of a third woman who told athletic department staff that Bradford was abusive toward her nearly 10 months before his arrests in connection with the other two cases.

The civil rights violation is in reference to Title IX, a federal law the university must adhere to that protects students from gender discrimination. It includes protections against sexual assault and relationship violence.

The Star does not generally name alleged victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault.

The third woman, a member of the UA’s softball team, alerted coach Mike Candrea to Bradford’s behavior in December 2015, the lawsuit says. Four months later, the woman called campus police to report that Bradford had been outside of her dorm room for several hours the night before, the lawsuit says.

An athletic department official was present when the woman told police what happened and that Bradford, now her ex-boyfriend, had choked her multiple times when they were in a relationship, the UA police report shows.

Bradford wasn’t arrested in connection with the incident; instead, the UA issued a “no contact order” and told Bradford to stay away from the woman. Bradford moved off campus to a house with other football players, according to the lawsuit.

The UA’s response says that Bradford was removed from the same residence hall as the woman and reassigned to another dorm.

University lawyers deny nearly every allegation in the lawsuit, except for a few basic facts, such as the year Bradford began attending the UA, the fact that a member of the athletic department was with the woman when she spoke to campus police and the UA’s issuance of a “no contact order.”

The lawsuit says that the UA’s actions after the woman’s effort to report Bradford were deficient, and he was allowed to victimize two other women as a result.

UA lawyers responded: “Defendants exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior and ... plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of preventative opportunities or to otherwise avoid harm.”

Bradford pleaded guilty in Pima County Superior Court last month to two counts of domestic violence aggravated assault and admitted to choking two of his previous girlfriends. In exchange for his guilty plea, the Pima County Attorney’s Office dismissed the eight other felonies and five misdemeanors he was charged with in connection with the cases.

“We would be interested in knowing whether anybody else has had experiences of this type with other athletes at UA in recent years, and how they were handled,” said Isabel Humphrey, a Phoenix attorney representing the woman who filed the lawsuit. Humphrey declined to comment further on the case, citing ethics rules.

Bradford was taken to jail straight from the hearing and is awaiting sentencing next month. His guilty plea carries a sentence of between two and 7ƒ years in prison.

Both the plaintiff in the federal case and the UA have requested a jury trial, according to records from the U.S. District Court in Arizona.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlinschmidt

Public safety reporter covering police, fire, courts, and sports-related legal issues.