US & Canada

Former Vanderbilt college football player convicted of rape

Defendant Brandon Vandenburg, a former Vanderbilt football player, listens to his attorney Randall Reagan during his retrial, Monday, June 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Image copyright AP
Image caption Brandon Vandenburg is facing at least 15 years in prison.

A former US college football player has been convicted after a jury found that he encouraged teammates to rape an unconscious woman he had been dating.

Brandon Vandenburg was found guilty on five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Vandenburg, 23, was a student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

He was first convicted last year alongside teammate Corey Batey, but the original verdict was thrown out when a juror was found to be a rape victim.

In a retrial, the jury took four hours to find Vandenberg guilty. He was also convicted on one count of unlawful photography.

Four former players were charged in the case but only two were accused of raping and sexually assaulting the woman.

Batey was convicted again in April. The two men now face a minimum of 15 years in prison.

Stanford controversy

The verdict comes amid controversy over a six-month sentence given to another college athlete, Brock Turner, for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman at Stanford University.

Vandenburg's lawyers argued that he was too drunk to be responsible for his actions. But CCTV footage showed the defendant carrying the victim into a hotel room along with several teammates.

The trial also featured graphic videos and photos that were taken by the players with their phones. Vandenburg's lawyers admitted in court that the images were "disturbing".

The victim, then a 21-year-old neuroscience student, testified that she had no memory of the event.

She said Vandenburg told her when she woke up that she had got drunk and sick and he had taken care of her.

Prosecutors suggested in court that she was under the influence of a date-rape drug.

Parallels have been drawn between the sentence in the Stanford case and the minimum sentence faced by Vandenburgg and Batey.

Dmitry Gorin, a Los Angeles criminal defence lawyer and former prosecutor specializing in sex crimes, told the Associated Press: "It does seem like an extreme disparity, but I would say this.

"With these sex crimes, the facts are very important, the details are very important, and the law punishes the conduct differently depending on what conduct can be proven.

"In the Stanford case, they did not prove rape."

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