Broken door that opened up rape case

It all began with a broken door.

When university staff discovered what appeared to be a kicked-in door on the second floor of the Gillette House dorm at the prestige Vanderbilt University on June 23, 2013, they had no idea what they were about to uncover.

Knocked off its hinges and cracked in the middle, a maintenance worker reported the broken door to campus police, who began to look for the culprit.

But what appeared as police combed through CCTV footage was something much more sinister than a mindless prank.

A group of men, football players at the University, appeared to be dragging a lifeless body (which we later find out is a cheerleader from the football squad) in the hallways towards a dorm room, they laid her body on the ground, it slumped towards the floor. The men stopped and began taking pictures with the body until they dragged it into a room.

Later, the prize athlete from the university's recruiting class, Brandon Vandenburg, appeared in frame topless, his head covered by a towel.

He throws the towel over the camera.

Campus police soon realise they had discovered more than just a petty crime, they'd uncovered a gang rape.

A gang rape so horrific, it involved water bottles, physical assaults and urination.

Almost three years to the day, a Nashville, Tennessee, jury convicted Brandon Vandenburg of encouraging and orchestrating his teammates to rape the unconscious woman, whom he had been dating.

It took jurors just over four hours of deliberation Saturday before finding Vandenburg guilty on multiple counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery. In addition, he was convicted of one count of unlawful photography.

"Whoever broke that door, broke this case open," said Detective Chad Gish, Metro Nashville Police.

Brandon Vandenburg, right, a former Vanderbilt football player, listens during his retrial. Photo / AP
Brandon Vandenburg, right, a former Vanderbilt football player, listens during his retrial. Photo / AP

Vandenburg, then 20, met the victim, 21, just two weeks before the rape at a recruitment day at the University. When he began studying at the school, they began to date.

On the night of June 22, the victim met up with Vandenburg at a local bar, The Tin Roof. She recalls drinking a cinnamon shot, a gin and tonic and a California Iced Tea. The last thing she recalled was sipping on a blue drink.

To prove that she was unconscious, Vandenburg slapped her face so hard it left a bruise.

She woke up the next morning, in Vandenburg's bed in his dorm room. She was bruised and battered, but "had no idea what had happened", according to Detective Gish. They had sex again that morning.

"He told me that I had gotten sick in his room and he had to clean it up and that it was horrible and that he had to spend the whole night taking care of me," she testified during Vandenburg's first trial (Vandenburg was found guilty but the case was retried after a juror failed to disclose he was a rape victim).

"I apologised, I was embarrassed."

Vandenburg kept his secret, until rumours began about the night in question.

"I would never let what they're saying happen to you," he texted the victim three days after the fact.

"This is such a mess. I'm never helping anyone get home ever."

When he was questioned by police, he denied the rape, telling them: "I didn't want to sleep in there with a girl who was, like, a mess."

But when police showed Vandenburg the footage, his story twisted.

"She got sexually assaulted right in front of me," he said in a later interview.

"And I didn't do anything. I should've called someone. They deserve to go to jail. I wish I just would have left her out in front of the dorm room on the floor."

But footage retrieved from the attack told another story.

The prosecution said it showed Vandenburg and three teammates, Cory Batey, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, putting the victim facedown on the tiled floor of his dorm.

Meanwhile, Vandenburg put on porn as his football teammates continued the assault.

After the 30-minute rape, Batey urinated on the victim.

Later, according to evidence before the court, McKenzie and Banks began to panic, but it was Vandenburg who calmed their nerves. He flushed their used condoms down the toilet.

He destroyed photographs and footage of the rape, and smashed his phone and threw it into a lake.

"He [Vandenburg] was the one that got (the woman) there for these strangers to do this to her," Assistant District Attorney General Jan Norman said during the prosecution's closing argument.

"He provided the victim. And he provided the room."

It comes as global outrage grows over college rapes, notably the lacklustre six-month jail sentence of former Stanford University swimming star Brock Turner, who was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault after he raped a 22-year-old woman behind a garbage bin after a frat party.

Vandenburg now faces 15 to 25 years in jail. Banks and McKenzie are yet to face trial.

- news.com.au

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