In addition to the disgust surrounding other notorious Stanford rape incident, another sexual assault trial in Nashville, Tennessee is playing out. In June of 2013, three football players from Vanderbilt allegedly raped an unconscious woman as a fourth player watched. 23-year-old Brandon Vandenburg, the fourth player, is facing retrial this week following the declaration that his conviction last year was a mistrial.
On the night of the assault, the victim (who was dating Vandenburg at the time) and Brandon were drinking in Nashville at the Tin Roof Bar. After, they headed back to campus, completely incoherent. When questioned as to whether or not he continued to drink in the car on the way back to campus, Vandenburg said he was “not comfortable” responding to the question. By the time they reached campus, his girlfriend was unconscious so he tracked down several of his football teammates. Defense attorneys argue that he had only met them a few weeks prior as a new recruit.
Along with his three teammates, Brandon Banks, Corey Batey, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, he brought his girlfriend back to his dorm room in Gillette Hall. In his dorm room, the football players proceeded to sexually assault the victim while Vandenburg allegedly directed the assault, recorded it, and supposedly “even passed out the condoms.”
Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman stated to jurors that Vandenburg videotaped the incident, gave instructions, encouraged the players, and even laughed. The repulsive claims match the statements made by Jaborian McKenzie, one of the alleged participants, who claimed that Vandenburg gave “directions” and was “amped”.
According to court documents, a phone call between Vandenburg and Christopher Boyd (who was convicted in 2013 as an accessory after the fact to a felony upon pleading guilty) detailed Vandenburg stating that although he wished to have sex with the victim, he “could not get an erection” even after using cocaine. In addition to the graphic statements, he also texted explicit photos to Christopher that showed the victim being assaulted in Vanderburg’s dorm room. Donnie Harville, Vanderbilt police captain, stated in the prior trial that Vandenburg snapped photos of the victim’s genitals in the dorm hallway.
Defense attorney Randall Reagan stated to jurors that “Mr. Vandenburg maybe could have stopped” the incident but that he should not be held liable “for the actions of people he didn’t know minutes before all this happened.” The defense is trying to place the blame on the culture surrounding drinking and partying. The defense argues that Brandon was a new recruit who was pulled into partying by “mentors on the football team,”.
Vandenburg told Nashville’s News Channel 5 that he has been “an outstanding citizen. A strong Christian and raised right by my family with a high level of character and never got in trouble in my whole life,”.
This week, Vandenburg faces a retrial for two counts of aggravated sexual battery, five counts of aggravated rape, and one count of unlawful photography. Last April, Corey Batey, who was initially tried and convicted alongside Vandenburg last year, was once again convicted of aggravated rape and two counts of sexual battery after his retrial. He faces sentencing next month. The additional men involved in the incident are still awaiting trial.