Woman testifies against ex-football player in rape trial
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A female student who was raped while unconscious in a college dorm room and one of the former Vanderbilt University football players charged with assaulting her both broke down in tears as they testified Wednesday in the athlete's trial.
Visibly shaken during her 16 minutes on the stand, the victim teared up as she told prosecutors that the trial marked the first she has seen Brandon Banks face to face. Until now, she said she had only seen Banks' image in the collection of evidence.
As a 21-year-old, she had been dating Brandon Vandenburg, one of the men involved in the rape, but didn't know the other three at all. Her last memory on the night in June 2013 was Vandenburg giving her a blue drink to try at the bar.
''The next thing I remember is waking up alone in a room that I didn't recognize,'' she said. ''I believe it was about 8 a.m. the next morning.''
Banks spent more than two hours testifying that he feared Vandenburg would beat him up badly if he tried to leave the room or didn't participate. He said teammates had long bullied him because he was smaller, and called him gay because had a girlfriend and didn't rack up a ''body count'' of women he slept with at college.
Banks paused, sighed and appeared flustered during a testy cross examination by Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman. She questioned the 23-year-old about how his actions were his choice and whether he actually thought he was in serious danger. Once Banks left the witness stand, he sat at the defense table and cried, burying his face in a Kleenex.
''Where was I gonna go?'' Banks said, when asked about whether he could've left the room. ''They said I couldn't leave. Vandenburg's beside me. Even if I did leave, I still gotta see them later on that night, or even in practice, or in the locker room. You can't escape that. You can't escape the football atmosphere.''
Banks has pleaded not guilty to five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. He is listed on the roster for Lane College's football team.
Vandenburg 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. And Jaborian ''Tip'' McKenzie, the fourth former player charged, has testified against his teammates in hopes of a favorable plea deal.
Wednesday marked the fifth time the victim has testified about the 2013 rape.
She testified when 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. She testified in separate trials for the two men last year. Then she spoke again at Batey's sentencing hearing.
Only two men were accused of raping her, but all four were charged with it because prosecutors held them criminally responsible based on their actions that night.
Banks admitted Wednesday he assaulted the student with a water bottle, touched her and took photos of her.
He said what happened wasn't his intent.
''And I feel terrible because, I feel like I was being selfish and worried about myself instead of her,'' Banks said.