An amendment to a federal lawsuit filed against the University of Arizona claims that Wildcats football players gang-raped female students and support-staffers in the years leading up to former running back Orlando Bradford’s 2016 arrest for choking his girlfriend. No additional details were immediately available, including the identities of the parties involved.
The lawsuit, originally filed in October by attorneys Lauren Groth, Kimberly Hult and David Shughart, claims that multiple UA employees knew that Bradford was abusive to women but failed to take action to stop him. Bradford was ultimately arrested in connection with 15 domestic violence-related offenses after two ex-girlfriends came forward to police to say that he’d repeatedly hit and choked them.
In November, Bradford was sentenced to five years in prison. He admitted in open court to choking each of the two women.
Nearly a year before his arrest, another Bradford ex-girlfriend called campus police to say that he was outside her dorm room. The woman told campus police, with a senior associate athletic director present, that Bradford had choked her in the past. After a short investigation, the case was closed with no charges filed.
Campus officials issued a “no contact” order to Bradford and the woman and moved him off campus. Bradford’s new roommates, also football players, watched and did nothing as he abused the other two women over the ensuing months, police reports stated.
The recent amendment to the federal lawsuit, one of two filed against the school by Bradford’s victims, says the program encouraged staff to disregard federal laws surround domestic violence and sexual assault, and “promoted the success of the football program at the expense of the safety of female students on campus.”
Coach Rich Rodriguez was fired on Jan. 2, the same day a $7.5 million notice of claim filed by his former assistant was made public.
The permissive culture in Arizona’s football program led to “rampant” sexual harassment and sexual assaults, including the gang rapes, the lawsuit says.
“Although UA received reports of this sexual harassment and violence, little, if anything, was done to stop it and/or take prompt action to redress the harassment, particularly if corrective action might have negatively impacted the potential success of the football program,” the lawsuit says.
The UA’s failure to take action against Bradford made it possible for the running back to physically and verbally abuse the woman who filed the lawsuit, a student photographer in the athletic department, the lawsuit says.
The initial filing claimed that the UA violated the woman’s Title IX rights, a federal law that protects students from sex discrimination, by showing indifference to the substantial risk of harm Bradford posed.
The amended suit adds a second claim, saying that the university was deliberately indifferent to a hostile educational environment.
The Star contacted Greg Byrne, who led the UA’s athletic department during that time, for an interview. Byrne, now the athletic director at Alabama, declined the Star’s request because of ongoing litigation in the federal suits.