NASHVILLE — With two former Vanderbilt football players facing decades in prison after being convicted of the rape of an unconscious student in a dorm room, attention now turns to two of their teammates who have yet to go to trial.
It took a jury three hours Tuesday, Jan. 27 to reach a verdict convicting Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey of multiple charges of aggravated rape and sexual battery. The jury saw powerful video evidence and photographs of the then-21-year-old neuroscience major being sexually assaulted on a dorm room floor. Some of those videos were taken by Vandenburg, who sent them to friends while the attack was ongoing.
The jury rejected claims that they were too drunk to know what they were doing, and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be blamed for the attack. It also rebuffed Vandenburg’s argument that he shouldn’t be held responsible because he did not have sex with the victim during the attack.
As the jury foreman read the decision, Batey was stoic, staring ahead. Vandenburg shook his head “no,” appearing stunned. His father cried out, and then briefly left the courtroom.
The victim, who cried as each guilty verdict was announced, issued a statement shortly after the defendants were led off to jail.
“I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone,” she said. “You are not to blame.”
Vandenburg, 21, and Batey, who turned 21 on Tuesday, Jan. 27, were taken into custody and await a March 6 sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors say Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie also were in that dorm room in the early morning hours of June 23, 2013.
McKenzie took the stand during the trial and testified that he never touched the woman and only took pictures. Banks is accused of touching the woman and video and statements from prosecutors show the government is likely going to accuse him of being the player who inserted an object into the woman.
McKenzie proved to be a powerful witness, describing what happened during the assault when the cameras and the video weren’t recording.
“As far as the four defendants, he is the least culpable,” Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman said of McKenzie.
Still, Vandenburg didn’t penetrate the woman and yet he was convicted of multiple counts of aggravated rape because he was considered criminally responsible, prosecutors said.
Each aggravated rape charge carries a sentence of 15 to 60 years. The aggravated sexual battery conviction carries a sentence of eight to 30 years. Batey and Vandenburg would likely get sentenced on the lower end because they are first-time offenders. It’s not clear whether the judge will decide to run the sentences at the same time.
Thurman said a trial date for the two remaining defendants could be set very soon. There is a possibility prosecutors will simply allow them to plead guilty, especially McKenzie, whose role was limited and whose testimony helped convict his former teammates.
Vandenburg and Batey were both convicted of four counts of aggravated rape, one count of attempted aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Additionally, Vandenburg was convicted of tampering with evidence and unlawful photography.