Former Vanderbilt football player found guilty in rape retrial

By Cindy Boren

Brandon Vandenburg, right, a former Vanderbilt football player, was found guilty in a Nashville courtroom on all five counts of aggravated rape. Photo / AP
Brandon Vandenburg, right, a former Vanderbilt football player, was found guilty in a Nashville courtroom on all five counts of aggravated rape. Photo / AP

A second former Vanderbilt University football player was convicted Saturday of the rape of an unconscious woman in his dormitory room, almost three years after the incident occurred.

Brandon Vandenburg, who was found guilty in a Nashville courtroom on all five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and unlawful photography, faces a prison sentence of 15 to 25 years, according to The Tennessean. The jury of seven women and five men delivered its verdict just before 8:30 p.m. CDT after deliberating for 4 1/2 hours.

The case has coincided with greater awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses and the verdict comes just weeks after outrage was sparked by a six-month sentence for sexual assault given to a former Stanford swimmer for an incident involving an unconscious woman. Last month, Baylor football coach Art Briles and president/chancellor Ken Starr were ousted after an investigation into how the school dealt with allegations of sexual assault at its campus.

The Vandenburg conviction ends the third trial stemming from the incident. Cory Batey was convicted in a retrial in April; Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie, who testified in the Vandenburg trial, and Brandon E. Banks await trial. Both have pleaded not guilty. Batey and Vandenburg were originally convicted in 2015, but the verdicts were thrown out when it was discovered that a juror had been a victim of statutory rape. All four former players were charged, but only two of raping and sexually assaulting the victim. Randall Reagan, attorney for Vandenburg, said his client would appeal the verdict.

"All of this doesn't happen very often," Assistant District Attorney General Jan Norman said (via the Tennessean) after Saturday's decision. "It doesn't happen to a rape victim. The media scrutiny and having it in the headlines every single time that there's a hearing and everything is streamed and people are commenting. She is one of the strongest people that I know. She has incredible courage. She is just an amazing, intelligent young woman."

The victim, then a 21-year-old neuroscience student, and Vandenburg, who is from California, had begun dating shortly after he arrived on campus as a 20-year-old in early June. On June 22, the two met up in a popular bar for Vanderbilt students. "I knew they'd been hanging out for a little bit so we trusted him," the victim's roommate, Lauren Miller, testified. The woman said she remembered nothing for a period of hours after Vandenburg gave her a blue drink at the bar. She woke up in pain the next morning in his dorm bed and said she believed what Vandenburg had told her, that she had vomited and he had taken care of her, going to his dorm when he could not get into her apartment. Security video shows the other players helping him carry her into the dorm.

Prosecutors depicted Vandenburg as a man who "served her up to three strangers," as Norman told jurors in her closing remarks. Vandenburg, prosecutors said, passed out condoms to the other players, took video of the rape and sent it to friends as it was happening. They suggested that she had been given a date-rape drug and argued that, although he did not penetrate the victim, he should be considered criminally responsible and convicted of aggravated rape. Vandenburg's attorneys argued that he was intoxicated and could not be responsible for what players he did not know did. They depicted him as a naive young man who was new to campus.

Graphic video and photos from the players' cell phones were shown during the trial and Albert Perez, an attorney for Vandenburg, admitted in closing remarks that "the videos are disturbing. They make you mad, they make you sad." However, he argued that the acts were committed by others, not Vandenburg.

- Washington Post

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