NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> A former Vanderbilt football player who encouraged his teammates to rape an unconscious female student was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison under a law requiring aggravated rape convicts to serve 100 percent of their time behind bars.
After the hearing, prosecutors said they hoped the sentences handed down would send a message that people who commit these types of crimes on campus will be held accountable.
Victims should know that there are people on their side — whether police, prosecutors or judges— Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said.
“That’s what I would like to see taken away from this — that justice is going to be served,” Moore said.
Surveillance video showed Brandon Vandenburg helping to carry the woman into his dorm room, where testimony showed he handed out condoms to three of his teammates and egged them on. The 23-year-old former player also took cellphone videos of the June 2013 dorm room rape and emailed them to friends in California while the crime was ongoing.
He was found guilty in 2015 but that verdict was overturned after lawyers learned that the jury foreman had not revealed that he had been a victim of statutory rape. Vandenburg was convicted again in June, on five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of unlawful photography.
He faced a sentence of 15 to 25 years in prison, and his victim had asked for the maximum punishment.
The woman, whom Vandenburg had begun dating shortly before the attack, did not appear in court Friday, but a prosecutor read her statement to Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins.
“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,” she 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.”
Vandenburg, already in jail since his second conviction, was also added to the state sex offender registry.
The Associated Press does not normally identify victims of rape or sexual assault. The woman, who has since graduated from Vanderbilt and is pursuing a Ph.D. at another school, has tried to preserve her anonymity despite being forced to testify at multiple trials.
Vandenburg apologized to her Friday. He told Judge Watkins that he was ashamed of what he had done and blamed it on alcohol.
“My judgment was severely impaired, and I’m sad for everyone involved,” Vandenburg said.
The judge reiterated that this has been one of the saddest cases he has ever heard. He said Vandenburg abused the woman’s trust in the man she was dating. “But for him, it would not have happened,” Watkins said.
Cory Batey, Vandenburg’s former teammate, was convicted in a separate retrial and sentenced to 15 years.
The cases of two other former teammates facing rape and other charges — Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Banks, who remain out on bond — have yet to be resolved.