A jury in Nashville has convicted former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks for his involvement in the 2013 gang rape of an unconscious female student. Two of his former teammates have also been convicted, and another is awaiting trial.
Banks was found guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery, The Associated Press reports. He was acquitted on five other counts. The aggravated rape count carries a minimum 15-year sentence.
“He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict, according to The Tennessean. “We have some really good issues to raise.”
Banks has said he participated in the dorm room rape out of fear his teammates would bully him if he didn’t.
He testified that the other players often chided him because he was smaller and had a girlfriend, so he didn’t sleep with lots of women.
Defense attorney Scruggs contended that Banks was “clearly under duress” and was “the classic example of someone who has been abused by a group, whether it be a football team, a fraternity or any other group nowadays, that requires complete loyalty, complete obedience,” the AP reports.
But Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore argued that Banks chose to join in the assault.
The AP reports that in his closing arguments, Moore said even if Banks were being bullied, “it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.’ ”
Former teammates Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were also convicted in separate trials and sentenced to 17 years and 15 years in prison, respectively. Jaborian McKenzie testified in the trials with the hope that he can make a plea deal, AP says. He has not yet been tried.
The victim also testified in the trials. She said she was 21 years old at the time of the rape and was dating Vandenburg, but didn’t know the other three men.
The last thing she remembers on the night of the assault, The Tennessean reports, was Vandenburg giving her a blue drink at a bar where they were drinking. Six hours later, the paper continues, she woke up in an empty, unfamiliar room.
The men used their cell phones to take videos and photos of the assault and those were used as evidence in court.
Banks confirmed on the stand that he had assaulted the woman with a water bottle — as one of the videos showed — and touched her and took photos.
The AP says only two of the men were accused of raping the woman, but all four were charged with rape because prosecutors believe they were criminally responsible for their actions.
- The nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division says the numbers in the bill don’t add up — there’s a $102 million gap between projected revenue and expenses if the bill were to pass.
- According to NOAA, over 180 gray whales have washed up dead along the West Coast so far this year. But each new specimen adds a little more clarity for scientists.
- Juneau International Airport officials have organized a simulated emergency exercise for Saturday. The exercise is required to be held every three years as part of the airport's FAA certification.
- Richard Glenn is an inconvenient truth for opponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge. He presents a challenge to a prevalent narrative in Washington, D.C., that Native people oppose development in the Arctic.