Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg has been sentenced to 17 years in prison after being found guilty in Nashville, Tennessee, on five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of unlawful photography, according to several reports.
Though his sentencing was tentatively scheduled for July, Vandenburg was given his sentences of nearly two decades behind bars on Friday. He faced a sentence of 15 to 25 years in prison, and his victim — a woman he dated shortly before the attack — requested the maximum punishment, according to CBS News. She was not in court, and explained her position in a letter read by her attorney on Friday.
“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,” the victim wrote, according to her lawyer. “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 had previously been convicted in the June 2013 assault of a young woman in his dorm room. But the conviction was thrown out five months later after one of the jurors admitted to being a victim of statutory rape, which was not disclosed at trial.
According to court testimony and video and pictures from the assault, Vandenburg carried the woman into his dorm room after she became unconscious while they were out drinking, according to The Tennessean.
On the way to his dorm, Vandenburg allegedly enlisted the help of three of his football teammates. And inside his room, the woman was assaulted by multiple people, as prosecutors described Vandenburg as a cheerleader and orchestrator. Vandenburg’s defense team tried to use that fact in his favor, arguing he should not be culpable for others’ actions.
Judge Monte Watkins announced the decision Friday afternoon, and called the case “one of the saddest” he’s ever seen, according to WKRN. Before the decision, Vandenburg read a prepared statement, marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the assault. He told the court he was an “inexperienced drinker” when he got to college, according to WKRN.
“I was living out my dream and in an instant, it all changed,” he said, admitting that he had consumed dozens of alcoholic drinks throughout the day of the June 2013 assault. “I let everyone down and many lives were destroyed.”
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Prosecutors played a recording from Miles Finley, a friend of Vandenburg’s, who described sexually explicit videos and texts he received from Vandenburg the night of the assault, according to The Tennessean. Finley was charged with tampering with evidence and after cooperating with authorities, took a deal last year and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge. On the recording played before the judge on Friday, he changed his story about what had happened that night and recalled a conversation from their time in high school.
“At the time, I didn’t know anything about date rape,” Finley said. “But I remember a time in high school Brandon tried to use something, a pill of some sort, I’m not sure if it was roofies, but his dad gave it to him and he told him it loosens women up.
“I know Brandon has tried to do it before.”
Vandenburg’s sentence is two years shorter than co-defendant Corey Batey, who is now serving time at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. The two other men involved — Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie — were also charged in the case, but have yet to be tried for their alleged involvement, according to WKRN.