Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg was convicted Saturday night in the 2013 gang rape of an unconscious woman, his former girlfriend, in a dorm room.
New York Daily News reports that a Nashville jury, consisting of five men and seven women, took only four hours of deliberation before finding Vandenburg guilty on all eight counts, including aggravated rape, aggravated sexual battery, and unlawful photography.
On June 23, 2013, Vanderburg, along with three other fellow football players, sexually assaulted his former girlfriend at a Vanderbilt Gillette House dorm. Vanderburg gave condoms to Cory Batey, Brandon Banks, and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, prior to the rape.
During the assault, Vanderburg took pictures and recorded the unconscious victim being assaulted, which authorities later found and used as evidence. According to court documents, Vanderburg planned and led the assault, even slapping his former girlfriend to make sure she was “passed out” before allowing the other students to take advantage of her.
After the assault, Vanderburg told McKenzie that flushing the used condoms down a toilet would ensure that they could beat any rape charges. All four defendants were ultimately charged. Batey was convicted of sexual assault in April. The other two defendants pleaded “not guilty” and are awaiting trial.
Vanderburg’s defense attorney argued that there was no way his client directed others to assault the victim since he was too inebriated to devise plans and lead anyone. His lawyer also argued that Vanderburg didn’t even know how to commit the crime.
The defense, however, showed evidence that the former star football player recruited his friends to help him carry his unconscious girlfriend back to his dorm room, where he encouraged them to rape her by passing them condoms to use.
In June, 2015, Nashville’s Judge Monte Watkins declared Vanderburg’s first trial as a mistrial when a juror didn’t disclose that he was a victim of statutory rape.
During the retrial, the jury was required not only to determine if Vanderburg was guilty of sexual assault, but also whether he should be held liable for what his friends were accused of. They ultimately found him guilty on all counts, which holds a sentence of 15- to 25-years in prison.
After the trial was over, Assistant District Attorney General Jan Norman told the press that the victim took the stand. He indicated that she did a remarkable job of staying strong while reliving the events, especially given the publicity of the case.
“All of this doesn’t happen very often. 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.”
Vandenburg, who rolled his eyes during his 2015 trial, lost his look of indifference as they jury read the verdict. He began shaking his head in disagreement while his mother sobbed from a front row seat. The former star athlete was immediately taken into custody after the verdict.
Court documents indicate that the victim trusted Vandenburg and knew him well, but the three other assailants were complete strangers. She stated she was initially excited to see Vandenburg. Hours before the rape occurred, the couple met at the Tin Roof bar on Demonbreun Hill, where she began drinking a blue drink that Vandenburg handed her. The next thing she remembered was waking up on his bed in the morning, in extreme physical pain.
According to Metro Nashville Police Detective Chad Gish, Vandenburg texted the victim a few days after the assault, wishing her “sweet dreams” and a good night. Three days later, he invited her over so he could cook for her, but on the same day, she made a medical appointment, and underwent a “rape kit” exam. She made the appointment after detectives insisted on it, after seeing a videotape of Vandenburg carry her unconscious body to a dorm room.
Vandenburg denied all allegations of sexual assault, but told police that he watched in horror while other students raped her. Ultimately, cellphone texts and videos, along with statements from the other students, proved Vandenburg’s involvement in the crime.
Attorney Randall Reagan plans to appeal the verdict. So far, the sentencing date has not been set for Brandon Vandenburg.
[Photo by AP/ The Tennessean, John Partipilo, Pool)