Vanderbilt rape trial: Defendants found guilty on all charges – USA TODAY
A Nashville jury found two former Vanderbilt University football players guilty of all charges Tuesday in a June 2013 campus rape.
The verdicts conclude the first round of the criminal case against four men, with trials still pending for two.
The rape investigation rocked the university’s football program, led to charges against five players and two acquaintances, and attracted national attention in a 19-month build-up to this month’s 12-day jury trial.
Cory Batey, 21, of Nashville, faced seven counts. Brandon Vandenburg, 21, of Indio, Calif., faced those same seven charges, plus two more.
The jury verdicts were read this afternoon after deliberations of about three hours.
The sentencing for both is March 6.
Charges against Cory Batey:
Count 1: Guilty of aggravated rape, anal penetration with fingers
Count 2: Guilty of aggravated rape, vaginal penetration with fingers
Count 3: Guilty of aggravated rape, mouth penetration with penis
Count 4: Guilty of attempted aggravated rape, vaginal penetration with penis
Count 5: Guilty of aggravated rape, criminal responsibility for anal penetration with water bottle by Brandon Banks
Count 6: Guilty of aggravated sexual battery, contact with private areas
Count 7: Guilty of aggravated sexual battery, slapping of buttocks
Charges for Brandon Vandenburg:
Count 1: Guilty of aggravated rape, criminal responsibility for Batey’s anal penetration with fingers
Count 2: Guilty of aggravated rape, criminal responsibility for Batey’s vaginal penetration with fingers
Count 3: Guilty of aggravated rape, criminal responsibility for Batey’s mouth penetration with penis
Count 4: Guilty of attempted aggravated rape, criminal responsibility for Batey’s vaginal penetration with penis
Count 5: Guilty of aggravated rape, criminal responsibility for anal penetration with water bottle by Banks
Count 6: Guilty of aggravated sexual battery, criminal responsibility for contact with private areas
Count 7: Guilty of aggravated sexual battery, slapping of buttocks
Count 8: Guilty of tampering with evidence by destruction of condoms after rape
Count 9: Guilty of unlawful photography, by sending images to other men
The men were tried together. Authorities outlined a case in which Batey committed several acts of rape and that Vandenburg bears “criminal responsibility” for aiding him and two other former football players, Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks, both age 20, who await separate trials.
Sentencing will be handled later. Aggravated felonies can carry substantial jail time and mandatory minimum sentences. Neither defendant has a prior felony record.
Vanderbilt University response
Vanderbilt University Vice Chancellor Beth Fortune issued a statement Tuesday afternoon after a Nashville jury found two former football players guilty on 16 charges in the rape of a student.
Here is her full statement:
“Our heart goes out to the victim. Her testimony was forceful and brave. She has received our care and support.
“Many months ago Vanderbilt found both defendants responsible for violating our sexual misconduct policy, and we quickly discharged both of them from the football team and subsequently expelled them from the university. We are confident we acted appropriately.
“Since Vanderbilt first reported the incident to the Nashville police, we have given our full cooperation to law enforcement, including the District Attorney’s office. We will continue to do so.
“The safety and security of our students is Vanderbilt’s top priority. Sexual violence will never be tolerated. Incidents will be investigated, victims will be supported, and perpetrators will be punished. We will also continue our comprehensive ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the importance of every Vanderbilt student intervening when another student is at risk or in distress.”
Attorneys duel in closing arguments
Jurors were sent out of the courtroom at 12:25 p.m. Tuesday and instructed to take a regular one-hour lunch break before beginning deliberations.
Attorneys finished closing arguments in the morning before Judge Monte Watkins read instructions to the jury for deliberations — a process that took more than an hour.
Watkins also selected two of the 14 jurors who have heard 12 days of trial to be alternates. Those people will not participate in deliberations unless another juror becomes unavailable.
In his closing argument earlier Monday, an attorney told jurors they should not hold Brandon Vandenburg responsible for the acts of others.
Fletcher Long delivered a 33-minute closing argument emphasizing that no proof in the trial — now in its 12th day — has shown that Vandenburg inappropriately touched an unconscious 21-year-old woman in a Vanderbilt dorm on June 23, 2013. Vandenburg is on trial with Cory Batey, who is accused of raping the woman.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating the charges against the two men Tuesday afternoon. A closing argument by Batey’s attorney took place Monday afternoon.
In his closing, Long admitted Vandenburg could be convicted of unlawful photography for sending pictures of the alleged acts to friends.
“He took photos he never should have taken,” Long said. “He exercised judgment that was deplorable. He at least had the sense in the aftermath to be upset by it.”
But as for the other, more serious charges against Vandenburg, Long said the prosecution was asking the jury to rely on “perhaps.”
“What they’re doing to this boy ain’t right,” Long said.
He said video and photos in the case do not show as much as prosecutors would like jurors to believe happened in the dorm room, and said a key piece of state evidence — Vandenburg directing someone to squeeze a bottle that was inserted into the victim — happened after the crime itself occurred and could not be a direction.
Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman delivered a 46-minute rebuttal closing argument for prosecutors.
He said in his 30-something years as an attorney he has not been able to say crimes were caught on video, until this case. He told jurors to rely on those videos and not be swayed by Batey’s own testimony shifting blame to someone else or the college culture around him.
“There is no such thing as a culture defense,” Thurman said. “There might be a culture excuse.”
He called that defense tactic a “huge red herring.”
Batey testified Monday that he did not remember the alleged rape because he had gotten so drunk the night before. He also apologized for his actions.
Thurman said he rarely agrees with Long, Vandenburg’s attorney, but in this case there is one thing. He used some of Long’s own words:
“What that boy did to (the victim) ain’t right.”
He said Vandenburg left the victim in the hallway like a piece of trash.
“She’s not a piece of trash,” Thurman told the jury. “She’s a victim. Victim. Not an alleged victim. A victim. A victim that came in here with the courage to take that witness stand. To face her attackers. A victim that had the courage to come in here in search of justice. Don’t deny her justice.”
Cory Batey’s mother, who has watched each day of the trial, left the courtroom Monday morning with tears in her eyes.
Stacey Barchenger writes for The Tennessean, a Gannett company.
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