Roy Exum: Vanderbilt’s Shocking Details

Saturday, September 14, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The rumors were shocking. The court statement presented by the prosecutor is far worse. In easily the worst day in the history of Vanderbilt, details of an alleged gang rape by members of the university’s football team were finally made public in a Nashville courtroom on Friday morning and those who love college football across the South collectively wept.

Ever since late June, Vanderbilt University has been smeared and its football program staggered by the fact four football players have been charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Police say the four scholarship athletes took turns raping and abusing an unconscious 21-year-old Vanderbilt female in one of the player’s Gillette Hall dormitory rooms earlier this summer.

Awaiting an Oct. 16 hearing are 20-year-old Brandon Vandenburg of Indio, Calif., 19-year-old Corey Batey of Nashville, 19-year-old Brandon Eric Bates of Brandywine, Md., and 19-year-old Jaborian McKenzie of Woodville, Miss. Two others from California, who are believed to be friends of Vandenburg – 19-year-old Miles Finley of Palm Desert, and 20-year-old Joseph Quinzio of Palm Desert -- are also being charged for tampering with evidence and await extradition to Tennessee. Vandenburg also faces tampering with evidence and unlawful photography charges. All have been released on bond.

Yesterday a fifth Vanderbilt player, 21-year old wide receiver Chris Boyd of Roswell, Ga., copped a plea with prosecutors and instead of answering charges of “accessory after the fact”  (a felony punishable with up to two years in prison), pleaded guilty to “criminal intent” (misdemeanor) and received 11 months/29 days of probation in return for his agreeing to testify against his four former teammates. His record will be expunged if he completes his probation period in a satisfactory manner.

But when Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman presented a brief narrative before Judge Steve Dozier, it implicated two more players who are scheduled to start for the Commodores in their game at South Carolina tonight. Named were quarterback Austyn Carta Samuels and tight end Dillon van der Wal and, as this was being written, their game status was unknown.

What is known is what prosecutor Thurman -- known as the “Thurmanator” for his aggressive style on high-profile cases -- presented to the court and here is his narrative as it appeared in Friday’s online edition of The Nashville Tennessean:

* * *

“On June 23, 2013, in the early morning hours, Brandon Vandenburg took an unconscious female Vanderbilt student from the Tin Roof bar to his room in Gillette Hall, which is located on the Vanderbilt campus, here in Nashville, Davidson County. Mr. Vandenburg was joined in the room by Corey Batey, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, where this female student was sexually assaulted by different individuals.

“During one of the aggravated rapes, Mr. Vandenburg sent a text to Mr. Boyd showing the unconscious victim with an object inserted in her anally. Mr. Boyd promptly deleted the text because he didn’t want his girlfriend to see it. Shortly after receiving the text, Mr. Boyd received a phone call from Mr. Vandenburg saying that the victim had been “messed with in the hall” and sexually assaulted in the room, and he needed Mr. Boyd to come over.

“Mr. Vandenburg further stated that he wanted to have sex with the victim but could not get an erection even though he had used cocaine. When Mr. Boyd arrived, he found the victim laying (sic) in the hall, unconscious and not fully clothed. He and two other individuals carried her back into the room and placed her in the bed and left.


“June 23 -- Boyd to Vandenburg: “Tell ur boys to delete that (expletive). I’m looking out for your (expletive).”

“Second text: “And tell your roommate he didn’t see (expletive).”

“Third text: Boyd’s girlfriend (unidentified) to Boyd: “How is everything with Brandon”

“Fourth text: Boyd to girlfriend: “Good. I got everything cleared up and I talked to both Tip (McKenzie) and Corey already. Deleted everything. She didn’t remember (expletive) and feels bad.”

“June 24 -- Fifth text: Batey to Boyd: “We still good? I’m stressing”

“Sixth text: Batey to Boyd: “Video deleted? Have you talked to her”

“Seventh text: Boyd to Batey: “Nah she doesn’t anything that happened but she passed out in Vandenburg’s bed. Me Carta (Vanderbilt starting QB) and van der Wal (Vanderbilt TE) and Vanderburg help helped us move her out the hallway.”

“Eighth text: Batey to Boyd: “Tell him don’t say nothing to anybody” (return to narrative)

“Mr. Boyd also participated in a meeting with the four defendants involved in the case at the Popeye’s chicken restaurant, where the case was discussed.

“The defendant was not completely truthful with the police or the district attorney’s in initial interviews by omitting details of two conversations he had with Mr. Vandenburg in which Mr. Vandenburg made incriminating statements to Mr. Boyd. He later came forward and gave additional information about these conversations.”

* * *

The sensational case, already being followed closely by the national media, is expected to be markedly distasteful to all associated with the university often called “The Harvard of the South.” To wit: Vandenburg and the victim are white, the other three players are black. One attorney has said the video footage has “a strong racial component” that goes far beyond the mere fact of the skin color.

Vanderbilt has notoriously withheld information from the media since the incident was first reported, refusing to even release the names of the accused until almost a full month had gone by, and as details begin to emerge, even the calloused Nashville police detectives are calling the rape case “unsettling.”

In a New York Times story about the rape at Vanderbilt, John Seigenthaler, the former longtime publisher and editor of The Tennessean, said succinctly, “It’s a scandal. There’s no other word for it. It’s the first real criminal scandal with Vanderbilt football. That’s a tough offset.”

How Vanderbilt’s football team will respond is unknown. The Commodores lost a heart-breaker to Ole Miss in the opener before screaming past out-manned Austin Peay last week so perhaps the litmus test will be tonight at South Carolina. Without quarterback Samuels and tight end van der Wal – should the university decide not to play either – it will hobble Vanderbilt but nothing like the fact at least four of its players are facing life-altering consequences if they are found to be guilty.

Vanderbilt football has never been in a storm as serious as this.

Appointing Justices Is More Important Than A President Of Moral Character - And Response (2)

I'm trying hard to understand why there's been so little criticism on the part of conservatives and evangelicals towards a President that paid $280,000 worth of hush money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, and a Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal during the campaign.  If this had been any other president the outrage would be constant and harsh.  Where is the outrage on the ... (click for more)

Problems With Bike Lanes And The School System

Bike Lanes:  There was a notice in the paper that MLK Boulevard from Georgia Avenue to Central Avenue was being reduced from four lanes to three lanes so that bike lanes could be installed. After looking at a survey on the that showed 98 percent of the people did not want this to happen, I am trying to understand why the people in the city were not given ... (click for more)

Volkswagen To Build New 5-Passenger SUV In Chattanooga

Volkswagen officials announced Monday that they will build a new five-passenger SUV at the Chattanooga plant at the Enterprise South Industrial Park. Governor Bill Haslam was among those on hand for the announcement. It will be a variant of the seven-passenger Atlas that is already under production here. Like the Atlas, the new model will be designed and engineered for ... (click for more)

Weather Channel Correspondent Hunkered Down In Chattanooga, But Storm Stayed Mainly To The Southwest

A Weather Channel correspondent hunkered down in Chattanooga on Monday night as a fierce storm approached. A Weather Channel anchor termed it "a rough night in the Scenic City," but the main area of damage kept to the southwest.. Reynolds Wolf said he, along with his cameraman and producer, were ready to take shelter in their nearby hotel should the storm become dangerous. ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Wins Wildcat Classic Again

Early season prep baseball tournaments are meant for a few things; primarily competition, repetition, and learning a few things about your team over the course of a few games.   The Ooltewah Owl baseball nine apparently has learned it likes collecting championship trophies in them as well.   For the second year in a row, the Owls won the longstanding ... (click for more)

Lady Vols Fall To Oregon State, 66-59, In 2nd Round Of NCAA's

KNOXVILLE-- Senior center Mercedes Russell logged her 46th career double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead Tennessee, but it wasn't enough as the No. 12/13 Lady Vols (25-8) fell to No. 13/12 Oregon State (25-7) in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Freshman Anastasia Hayes also had a double-digit outing for the No. 3 seed Lady Vols, posting ... (click for more)