Former Vanderbilt player found guilty on all charges - WSMV Channel 4

Former Vanderbilt player found guilty on all charges

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In a rare sign of emotion, Brandon Vandenburg appeared to be crying at one point during closing arguments. (WSMV) In a rare sign of emotion, Brandon Vandenburg appeared to be crying at one point during closing arguments. (WSMV)
Brandon Vandenburg waived his right to testify in his defense. (WSMV) Brandon Vandenburg waived his right to testify in his defense. (WSMV)
Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman delivered the closing arguments for the prosecution team in court on June 18. Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman delivered the closing arguments for the prosecution team in court on June 18.
Defense attorney Albert Perez makes the closing arguments during Brandon Vandenburg's retrial on June 18. (WSMV) Defense attorney Albert Perez makes the closing arguments during Brandon Vandenburg's retrial on June 18. (WSMV)
Assistant District Attorney Tom Thurman gave the prosecution's rebuttal closing at the end of the trial on June 18. (WSMV) Assistant District Attorney Tom Thurman gave the prosecution's rebuttal closing at the end of the trial on June 18. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A jury has found former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg guilty on all eight of the most serious charges after six days of testimony.

The former football player was found guilty on five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one county of unlawful photography.

The jury deliberated about 4.5 hours before reaching its decision.

The victim nodded approval with the verdict, unlike in April when Cory Batey was only convicted on one count of aggravated rape and other lesser offenses.

"She is one of the strongest people I know. She has incredible courage. She is an amazing, intelligent young woman," said assistant district attorney Jan Norman in a press conference after the trial.

The aggravated rape charges carry a sentence between 15-25 years.

Channel 4 legal analyst Jim Todd said Vandenburg would likely have to serve 85 percent of the sentence to be eligible for parole.

The two counts of aggravated sexual battery also carry minimum 15-year sentences.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Thurman said the state could ask the court for Vandenburg to serve the sentences consecutively. That decision has not been made yet. The sentencing hearing will likely be held in July.

Because of the guilty charge on the aggravated rape cases, Vandenburg's bond was revoked and was in the process of being booked into the Criminal Detention Center.

Vandenburg's mother, the only family member in the courtroom at the time of the verdict, was overcome with emotion and taken into a private area after the verdict.

Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Beth Fortune issued a statement on the school's behalf after the verdict.

"Our first thoughts are with the victim who has shown incredible strength and fortitude as she has endured another retrial. It is our sincere hope that today’s verdict strongly sends the message to victims and to perpetrators that sexual assault will not be tolerated in our communities. Vanderbilt will continue its work to combat the threat of sexual violence on our campus, and we appreciate our strong partnership with the Metro Nashville Police Department and Office of the District Attorney which helped deliver today’s verdict and, we hope, some measure of resolution for the victim."

The jury began deliberations on the sixth day of testimony just after 3:50 p.m. on Saturday after a day where the defense called one witness, whose testimony was read from a jury-out session earlier in the week, and attorneys from both sides made closing arguments.

The day began with the defense making a motion to dismiss the case, which Judge Monte Watkins denied.

Vandenburg waived his right to testify prior to testimony on Day 6 of his rape retrial.

Closing arguments concluded just before 2:30 p.m. After a recess, Judge Monte Watkins was going to deliver the jury instructions before deliberations would begin.

The defense rested its case after the jury-out testimony Julianna Martel was read into the record.

The testimony was delayed while Watkins decided whether the testimony would be read into the record or if Martel had to return to testify.

Martel was contacted and was en route to the court room, but Watkins decided after reading the transcripts that it could instead be read into the record.

Before Watkins decided that Martel’s testimony would be read into the record, he told the jury “We are at the end of this case.”

One of the decisions from closing arguments the jury will have to decide is whether intoxication can be used as a defense for Vandenburg.

Norman said during closing arguments that intoxication shouldn’t be a defense.

“He was aware of his conduct and we said ‘I was asking them for help to get her to my room.’ That’s awareness, intentional conduct and absolutely knowing,” Norman told the jurors.

The state also emphasized the Vandenburg was calling the shots in the room with his teammates.

“Mr. Vandenburg got pictures. Mr. Vandenburg got videos that he shared with several other people,” said Norman. “Mr. Vandenburg got enjoyment out of it while it was happening, the enjoyment he got at that moment that is him benefiting from his actions.”

Norman said the incident wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Vandenburg bringing her back to the dorm.

“They would have never gotten to her. They weren’t with her,” said Norman. “I guess they could have gone out and try to seek her, but I think it’s fair to say that’s not something they would have done. It was Mr. Vandenburg that brought her in unconscious. He provided the victim and then he provided the room.”

Defense attorney Albert Perez argues they have presented evidence to show the use of intoxication as a defense and that it wasn’t Vandenburg doing anything to the victim, that it was Batey and the others.

“They are not charging him with these counts of doing these things, they are trying to hold him and say he is criminally responsible for these two individuals,” said Perez during closing arguments. “They are holding someone else responsible for someone else’s conduct and acts.”

Perez also argued the credibility of police detectives. He said that the case was being put together with “bad evidence.”

He cited errors in the time codes on the video stamping system, detectives testifying about the wrong defendant’s phones and confusing iPhones and Samsungs as examples.

Assistant district attorney Roger Moore praised the work of the police department after the trial.

"I can't say enough about the tremendous work they put into this case and dedication they they had to represent the Nashville police department," said Moore. "They did a great job and we should be forever grateful to them."

Some of the detectives were in the court room when the verdict was read and had a sigh of relief after the verdict was read.

Vandenburg and the victim had been dating for a couple of weeks, according to testimony, prior to the night of the rape.

The defense had claimed it was Vandenburg’s teammates - co-defendants Batey, Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks - who had other plans when he asked them to help carry the woman to his dorm room. 

Vandenburg did not have sexual contact with the victim, according to testimony. However, he told police during an interview that he did have consensual sex with the victim the next day.

Vandenburg is one of four former Vanderbilt University football players charged in the rape of an unconscious female student in June 2013.

Vandenburg and Batey were found guilty during a trial in January 2015. Watkins later declared a mistrial after discovering the jury foreman did not disclose he was a victim of statutory rape.

Vandenburg's and Batey's cases were severed, and Batey was found guilty of one count of aggravated rape and other lesser charges during his retrial in April 2016. Batey is still awaiting sentencing.

Vandenburg is charged with five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of unlawful photography.

The jury for Vandenburg's retrial was selected in Memphis. They were sequestered for the entire trial.

The two other defendants, Banks and McKenzie, have not yet been tried. Prosecutors said after the trial they would likely not be placed on the docket to begin the process.

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