NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former Vanderbilt University football player charged with raping an unconscious female student in a dorm room in June 2013 was pressured and bullied into participating, his lawyer contended in the opening of his trial Monday.
In opening statements, defense attorney Katie Hagan said trial jurors must determine if Brandon E. Banks was acting under duress during the rape, which has led to convictions and prison sentences for two of his three teammates also charged in the incident.
On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman opened the trial by telling jurors, in graphic detail, that a video shows Banks assaulting the student with a water bottle. Banks’ cellphone also contained 23 of 41 images of the assault, Norman said.
At times during the rape, the players responded with laughter and applause, Norman said.
“They’re memorializing each other’s accomplishments in that room - what they were doing, what they were cheering each other on to do, what they were encouraging each other to do,” Norman said in Davidson County Criminal Court.
Hagan countered that teammate Brandon Vandenburg “was pressuring and goading” Banks throughout the incident.
Vandenburg, who was dating the woman at the time, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in June 2016 for his role in the rape. Cory Batey, another teammate, received a 15-year sentence in April 2016.
“You are going to see some things in these photographs and the videos about Brandon Banks that are going to make you mad at him, and they are going to make you dislike him,” Hagan said. “But despite those things, the proof in this case will show that Brandon Banks is not guilty of the crimes that he is charged with in this indictment.”
Banks is charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The 23-year-old has pleaded not guilty. Banks is listed on the roster for Lane College’s football team.
Prosecutors said the victim will take the stand against Banks. Because there have been multiple trials and sentencings, this would mark her fifth time testifying in the case.
Batey and Vandenburg were first convicted in 2015, but the verdicts were tossed because a juror did not reveal he was a victim of statutory rape.
The victim, then a 21-year-old neuroscience major, has testified that she had no memory of the event. Prosecutors say the last thing she remembers was Vandenburg giving her a blue-colored drink at a bar.
Surveillance video shows Vandenburg helped carry the woman into his dorm room, where prosecutors say he handed out condoms to his three teammates and egged them on. The 23-year-old former player also took cellphone videos of the rape and emailed them to friends in California, prosecutors said.
Only two players were accused of raping the student, but all four were charged with it because prosecutors held them criminally responsible based on their actions that night.
The defenses of Vandenburg and Batey said the two were drunk during the incident.
The fourth former player charged, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, has testified against his teammates and is slated to take the stand in Banks’ case.
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