Tuesday 20 February 2018

American university football player says he was 'bullied' into gang raping classmate

Prosecutors say that video shows Mr Banks raping a classmate with a water bottle

Two other Vanderbilt University students have already been convicted of rape
Two other Vanderbilt University students have already been convicted of rape

Clark Mindock

An American football player contesting charges that he raped an unconscious female classmate at Vanderbilt University says that he was bullied into participating in the attack.

Brandon Banks, 23, was one of several college students who has gone to trail for the 2013 rape of a classmate, which was partially captured on a cell phone. Mr Banks’ defense attorney says that Mr Banks’ football teammate Brandon Vandenberg — who was dating the victim at the time — “was pressuring and goading” her client throughout the attack.

Vandenburg has been sentenced to 17 years in 2016 for his role in the rape. Another football teammate, Cory Batey, was given a 15-year sentence in 2016 as well.

The trial began this week, and was opened by Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman, who told jurors in graphic detail that a video shows Mr Banks assaulting his unconscious classmate with a water bottle. Mr Banks’ cell phone also reportedly contained 23 of the 41 images of the assault ultimately discovered.

Defence attorney Katie Hagan told jurors in opening remarks that they need to determine whether her client was acting under duress during the rape that has already led to those two convictions.

Mr Norman says that the teammates laughed and applauded each other at times during the rape.

“They’re memorialising 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”, Mr Norman told the court.

The victim, who was 21 at the time of the attack and a neuroscience major, has testified that she doesn’t remember the event. Surveillance tapes from before the attack shows the three men — alongside one other teammate — carrying her, unconscious, through the halls of a dorm on the night of the alleged rape.

The last thing the victim says she remembers, according to prosecutors, was Vandenberg giving her a blue-colored drink at a bar where they were having drinks.

“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”, Ms 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”.

Mr Banks faces five counts of aggravated rape, and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. He has plead not guilty.

A fourth teammate, Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie, has been charged in the attack, and has testified against the two men who have been convicted. He is expected to testify in Mr Banks’ case as well.

The alleged rape was discovered by campus police investigating graffiti in the dorm on the campus in Nashville, Tennessee. Those police saw the four men carrying the victim through the halls, and a subsequent investigation found dozens of images and video clips of the alleged rape, which has been used as the main evidence in the case.

Independent News Service

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