A former college football player in Tennessee who encouraged his teammates as they raped an unconscious cheerleader will spend the next 17 years in prison — and prosecutors said his long sentence ensures “that justice is going to be served.”
Brandon Vanderburg was found guilty on a slew of aggravated rape and sexual battery charges at a Nashville courthouse Friday for carrying the female student into his Vanderbilt University dorm room before gang-raping her for 30 minutes together with three of his teammates.
Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said he hoped the relatively long sentence will send a message to potential predators that crimes such as these do not go unpunished.
“That’s what I would like to see taken away from this — that justice is going to be served,” Moore said. “This is not the typical case, but unfortunately it may not be so atypical a crime.” Surveillance video shows now 23-year-old Vanderburg and his teammates laughing as they drag the woman into his room in the early morning hours of June 23, 2013. After closing the door behind him, Vanderburg handed out condoms to his teammates and egged them on before taking out his cellphone camera, testimony shows. He then recorded the gang rape and emailed the videos to friends in his native California as the crime was still ongoing.
The victim, whose identity is being withheld by the Daily News, did not appear in court Friday, but a prosecutor read a statement she’d written before the court. The 6 feet 6 inches ex-footballer, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit, sat emotionless in between his lawyers as her words were read.
“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.”
Vanderburg, once the nation’s number one junior college tight end, was first found guilty in 2015 but had his verdict overturned after it was revealed that one of the jurors was the victim of statutory rape. He was reconvicted in June and has been in jail ever since. The towering football player, who will remain on the state sex offender registry for life, apologized to his victim for the first time during his sentencing, but blamed the widely publicized gang rape on alcohol.
It seem inadequate to try to explain how this all happened,” he said. “I go over and over this in my mind and try and replay what could have been done to prevent the events of that night. I am ashamed of myself that I was so irresponsible with alcohol, which led to something tragic.”
Vanderburg’s former teammate, Cory Batey, was convicted earlier this year and sentence to 15 years in prison. The other two teammates, Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks, remain free on bond and have yet to be sentenced.
The disgraced footballer’s sentence comes two months after people across the country were outraged when former Stanford University student Brock Turner was set free after only spending six months in prison for sexually assaulting an unconcious woman on campus.