Vandenburg sentenced to 17 years in prison for rape - WSMV News 4

Vandenburg sentenced to 17 years in prison for rape

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Brandon Vandenburg at sentencing hearing on Nov. 4, 2016. (WSMV/Pool) Brandon Vandenburg at sentencing hearing on Nov. 4, 2016. (WSMV/Pool)

Brandon Vandenburg was sentenced to 17 years in prison in connection to the aggravated rape of a woman inside a Vanderbilt University dorm room in 2013.

Judge Monte Watkins ruled that Vandenburg would serve 17 years in connection to the five aggravated rape charges he was convicted earlier this summer. Watkins said Vandenburg was the leader in the rape and the one who could have stopped it.

Watkins announced the sentence at the conclusion of a hearing in which Vandenburg expressed remorse for what had happened.

"I am here before the courts, saddened, scared, ashamed and remorseful for the crimes I have been accused of," Vandenburg said. "Your honor, and everyone involved, I am sorry. To [the victim] I am deeply sorry."

Vandenburg was the second defendant convicted after a retrial. Cory Batey was convicted on similar charges earlier this year and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Both were found guilty by an earlier jury during a joint trial in January 2015. Watkins later vacated the verdict and ordered a retrial.

In the hearing, Vandenburg sat with a small blue New King James version of the Bible tucked into the front pocket of his shirt.

Prosecutors played the police interview of Miles Finley, Vandenburg’s friend from California. Finley was one of the friends Vandenburg sent videos and pictures of the assault to via text message.

The defense team objected to the playing of the interview because they said some of Finley’s statements had been proven to be false.

However, Judge Watkins decided to allow most of the tape to be played. He cut off the portion where Finley talked about whether Vandenburg’s father had previously provided his son date rape drugs. The defense argued there was no evidence of date rape drugs in this case.

In the interview, Finley claimed that Albert Perez, who is representing Vandenburg, told them to destroy his and Joseph Quinzio’s cell phones.

Perez objected to the playing of the tape.

“Your honor, these are lies,” Perez said. “He lied on the stand. This is just a smear campaign.”

After the sentencing, Perez called the claims that he ordered the destruction of evidence, "bull crap."

Watkins allows the tape to be continued to be played, telling the defense team that he is very familiar with the facts of the case and knows which parts of the Finley tape are true and which aren’t.

The victim did not attend Friday’s hearing. Assistant District Attorney read a statement on her behalf.

Thirty different people wrote character letters on Vandenburg's behalf, including his father, who did not attend the sentencing hearing. 

Friends of Vandenburg's mother took the stand to speak about his character. 

"He loves his family and he loves God, and there is nothing he wouldn't do for his mother and two little brothers," Shannon Fix said on the witness stand. "I would be proud to call him my son."

"I can honestly say I think he is the most polite and kind man I have ever met," said Pernilla Linner, Vandenburg's mother's best friend.

Prosecutor Tom Thurman came out of retirement for the hearing. He drilled the witnesses about Vandenburg's actions that night, versus their perceptions of him.

"You think what he did here with recording videos and encouraging a gang rape was caring for the victim?" he asked Linner, who said Vandenburg was only trying to care for the intoxicated young woman.

Prosecutor Jan Norman presented the argument that ultimately got two years added to Vandenburg's sentence. She argued Vandenburg's case should be distinguished from his teammate's cases because he was responsible for more of the blame based on his relationship with the victim.

"None of this could have happened had the victim not trusted Mr. Vandenburg, and Mr. Vandenburg now abused that trust in order to get her into this situation to have these acts committed against her," Norman argued. "It is the abuse and exploitation that distinguishes this. It also distinguishes Mr. Vandenburg from his co-defendants."

The victim at the center of the crime decided not to attend Vandenburg's hearing after going through Batey's sentencing. She asked that her prior statement be used as a reference as well as letters from two professionals who have helped her through the process.

"Please do not use my absence as an excuse for leniency, as it in no way diminishes the profound and insidious impact of Mr. Vandenburg on me and my life," the young woman wrote. "I still ask that he receive the full sentence allowed under the law for orchestrating a sustained 30-minute gang rape against me, a defenseless woman who trusted him. The minimum sentence is not enough for what this man did to me."

As Judge Watkins read his decision, he said, "The court believes that the defendant was the leader in this, that without him it would not have happened. The court believes that he is the one that could've stopped this."

Vandenburg will get out of prison when he is 40. He will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

As far as the other two defendants, Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks, they are facing similar charges to Vandenburg and Batey. They are currently out on bond before their cases are either settled or go to trial.

"Based on my conversations with attorneys involved the state and defense attorneys are very very far apart, and it would not shock me if the case was sent to trial," said Jim Todd, Channel 4's legal analyst. 

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