Ex-Vandy football player testifies in rape case

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2014 6:48 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — One of four former Vanderbilt University football players accused of raping a student in a campus dormitory last year testified Wednesday that athletics officials told him he would lose his scholarship if he didn't cooperate with police investigating the case, so he felt he had no choice.

Brandon Vandenburg said former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Kevin Colon, assistant athletic director, said his scholarship would be in jeopardy if he didn't cooperate. Vandenburg said police officers who questioned him also told him he would lose the scholarship if he didn't cooperate.

"I felt I was going to lose everything I worked so hard for," Vandenburg said at a hearing to consider motions before his trial. The hearing will continue Thursday.

Colon testified later that Vandenburg, who was dismissed from the team, wasn't intimidated and his scholarship wasn't threatened.

Vandenburg and fellow defendant, Corey Batey, are seeking to have the court suppress statements made to police and campus officials. Their rape trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 3.

Vanderburg testified that police didn't read him his rights and he felt intimidated by officers wearing guns.

"Every point in this process, I thought I had no choice," Vandenburg said.

According to an account given at a different hearing, Deputy Attorney General Tom Thurman said Vandenburg took an unconscious fellow student to his dormitory in the early morning of June 23, 2013. He was joined by three other dismissed players — Batey, Brandon Banks and Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie. The student was sexually assaulted "by different individuals," Thurman had said.

All four are charged with several counts of rape and have pleaded not guilty. They are free on bond. Banks and McKenzie face separate trials. The case has become cantankerous with the defense and prosecution trading allegations of misconduct against one another.

Nashville police Sgt. Michael Shreeve, who questioned Vandenburg and is supervisor in the department's sex crimes unit, testified that no intimidation tactics were used. Officers were armed, but their guns were covered, Shreeve said.

Vandenburg said when he met with police officers, they took him to his dorm room to retrieve his phone and that on the way back, one of the officers started looking through it without his consent.

Batey's defense attorney Worrick Robinson also continued to push for prosecutors to provide more precise indictments as to what defendants are believed to have committed each specific assault.

During the attack, Vandenburg sent a picture to another player, Chris Boyd, which he deleted, prosecutors have said. Boyd received an 11-month, 29-day suspended sentence after pleading guilty to criminal attempt to commit accessory after the fact. Prosecutors say he attempted to cover up the rape.

Afterward, Boyd sent a text to Vandenburg saying he and the other players who had been there should delete the photos and videos they had taken. Boyd said he was looking out for their interests.

Coach Franklin, who left Vanderbilt in January after three seasons for Penn State, testified via Skype for about 15 minutes on Wednesday.

He said he did not see a video of the alleged rape, even though he told his players he had because he was angry. He testified Wednesday that he was only told about it.

Franklin said he advised his players to tell the truth about what happened because they were going to be dealing with it for the rest of their lives.