The University of Arizona has settled a lawsuit filed by a student who was physically abused by former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford.
The suit is one of two filed by students who say the school knew Bradford was a danger and failed to take adequate steps to protect them. Each student separately reported Bradford to police in September 2016, saying he repeatedly hit and choked them during the course of their relationships. Bradford subsequently pleaded guilty to two felony counts of domestic-violence-related aggravated assault and is in the middle of serving a five-year prison sentence.
Both suits claim the UA’s actions violated the plaintiffs’ Title IX rights. Title IX is a federal gender equity law that requires schools to provide students with an education free from sexual harassment, assault or dating violence.
The first lawsuit, filed in September 2017, was dismissed in March, but the judge’s decision is being appealed. A settlement in the second suit, filed in January 2018, was reached in late March but required approval by the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee. The committee’s meeting was delayed due to the coronavirus.
A spokeswoman for the UA said the school extends “well wishes” to the student.
“It is our hope that she has a happy and successful future,” Pam Scott, the UA’s associate vice president for external communications, said in an email.
Lauren Groth, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, said she was “pleased for our client, that she has this resolved.”
On Sept. 14, 2016, a woman called Tucson police to say that Bradford had held her against her will over the past two days, hitting and choking her multiple times. He was booked into jail on seven felony counts and immediately dismissed from the football team by coach Rich Rodriguez.
The next day, a second woman — the plaintiff in the now-settled lawsuit — called Tucson police to say that Bradford had also abused her over the course of their relationship. Bradford was booked on four additional domestic violence-related charges, eventually pleading guilty to one count for each woman.
The second lawsuit detailed how the plaintiff’s mother called the UA’s dean of students in May 2016 to express concern over her daughter, who endured several more months of abuse by Bradford before his arrest that September.
The suit said UA officials had received previous reports that Bradford was abusing another student, and instead of taking real action, they moved him off campus and barred him from having contact with the woman. The suit claimed the UA exercised “deliberate indifference” in its handling of Bradford.
In May 2019, a UA employee produced a handwritten note from an athletic department employee detailing a meeting she had with two students who told her about Bradford’s abuse of one of their friends. The note, dated March 23, 2016, said Bradford admitted to hitting one of the women and was blackmailing her with sexually explicit photos. It also documented his abuse of the plaintiff, saying that he “hits her often” and sent a sexually explicit video of her to other people. The note also said a friend of Bradford’s from his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, said he had a violent past, isn’t afraid to hurt someone and that “people need to be careful.”
One of the students mentioned in the note reported Bradford to UA police for harassing her in April 2016, a few weeks after her friends spoke with the UA employee. The UA police report shows she told police that Bradford had hit and choked her in the past.
The note was emailed to the dean of students and to a Title IX investigator, but it’s unclear what was done with the information after that.
In October, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton ordered the UA to produce all investigative files into Title IX complaints and later awarded the plaintiff $35,000 in fees and court costs associated with the late release of the note.
In a February ruling in response to both parties’ motions, Bolton said the case would proceed to trial and that she believed the UA knew Bradford abused the plaintiff and “demonstrated deliberate indifference to it.”
Groth, the plaintiff’s attorney, cited the ruling’s “importance for future Title IX cases.”
On March 27, a notice of settlement was filed with the court. The case was officially dismissed Friday, with each side agreeing to pay their own attorney fees.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt