Prosecution rests in rape trial of former Vanderbilt players
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The alleged victim of rape by Vanderbilt University football players testified during their trial Thursday that she has no recollection of being sexually assaulted.
The woman was a 21-year-old student majoring in neuroscience and economics at the school in June 2013 and had recently begun seeing football player Brandon Vandenburg when the alleged assault occurred.
Vandenburg and another Vanderbilt football player, Cory Batey, are standing trial on five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. In addition, Vandenburg faces one count of unlawful photography and one count of tampering with evidence.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday after testimony from the woman and two other witnesses.
The woman testified that the last thing she remembered on the night in question was Vandenburg plying her with drinks at a popular Nashville night spot. She awakened, she told jurors, alone in a dorm room in her clothes and not knowing where she was.
"I felt very out of it," the alleged victim, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience at a school outside of Tennessee, testified. "I didn’t feel like myself. I felt very confused. I felt sick and nauseous. I started to develop a really bad headache and I was also in pain in certain parts of my body."
Vandenberg would tell her later in the day that she got very drunk and he tended to her, she said.
"He told me that I had gotten sick in his room and he had to clean it up and that it was horrible and that he had to spend all night taking care of me and that it was horrible," she testified of what Vandenberg told her about what had happened. "I apologized. I was embarrassed."
It wouldn’t be until later that she learned something very wrong might have happened in Vandenberg’s dorm room.
The incident came to light when Vanderbilt officials reviewed a dormitory surveillance video following a report of vandalism. When they reviewed the footage, they saw an unconscious woman being dragged into a dorm room. That is when they called Nashville Police, who opened an investigation.
Detectives asked the woman to get a physical examination, but she initially refused, still not knowing what had happened.
When Vandenberg sent her a text message saying that he was probably going to get kicked off the team, she replied by telling him, "I don’t want anyone to get in trouble because of me."
"I’ll do everything I can to clear your name," she said in a text to Vandenberg.
Her main concern at the time, she testified, was protecting him. To this day, she said she has no memory of what happened.
It was after Vandenburg and three other football players were charged with her rape that she would see graphic videos of the alleged attack, she testified. Prosecutors played videos of the alleged attack for jurors that they said were shot from Vandenburg’s cellphone. A Nashville detective testified that police were able to recover the videos from a laptop.
Two other players, Brandon Banks and Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie are also charged, but a trial date for them has not been set. All four players have pleaded not guilty.
Earlier this week, McKenzie testified that Vandenberg was "amped" and coaching players to violate the woman. McKenzie said he did not touch her but took pictures. He also testified that Banks and Batey violated the woman.
The woman testified that she had never met Batey, McKenzie or Banks before.
Jurors will have to decide whether Vandenburg can be held responsible for rape even if they find he did not have sex with the woman during the alleged attack.
Defense attorneys for the players have said that evidence at the trial will show that Batey and Vandenberg are innocent and were extremely drunk at the time. Batey’s lawyer has said that his client was changed by a culture of binge drinking and sex at Vanderbilt.