Jury finds ex-Vanderbilt football player guilty of aggravated rape, sexual battery
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV/AP) - A jury found Brandon Banks guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery Friday for his role in the rape an unconscious woman in a Vanderbilt University dorm room.
After more than 15 hours of deliberation, the jury delivered the guilty verdict on two of the seven counts filed against Banks. The guilty verdict carries a minimum of 15 years in prison.
Banks was taken to jail following the sentencing and will serve at minimum the full 15 years of his sentence.
"This case has always been about the conscious choices and decisions these young men made on that night," said Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman. "It was never about anything else. The fact that they were Vanderbilt football players at the time should not overshadow the decisions they made when they decided to commit a violent crime."
Prosecutors said they're very appreciative of the jury's thoughtful decision. They became concerned at the length of the deliberation in the case but said they ultimately have faith in the justice system and its process.
When speaking about the victim, Norman described her as one of the strongest people she knows.
"Every time that we've been here, she continues to amaze me that she is so strong and she continues to get stronger every single time that we've had to do this," Norman said. "She is truly an amazing person and resilient."
Metro Detective Chad Gish agreed, speaking highly of the victim's strength throughout the trials.
"It's mind boggling what she has had to put up with," Gish said. "She is a true pillar of strength and my hero. I hope my daughter grows up as strong as she is."
Banks' attorney argued at the trial this week that Banks was threatened by teammates and bullied into his role in the rape. Following Friday's verdict, the defense said it plans to take all the necessary steps to pursue an appeal after the August sentencing.
"We never expected realistically that he would be found not guilty on all seven counts," said Mark Scruggs, one of Banks' attorneys. "It happens the two he was found guilty on are offenses for which you cannot have bail pending appeal, and they have mandatory jail time."
Scruggs said this is not something that Banks was not prepared for, and he is prepared to "fight this thing as long as it takes."
"At first he was in shock, like anyone," Scruggs said. "We had talked about this over and over, and he knew this was a possibility. So, he is prepared, and he's not going to give it up. He's going to continue on fighting."
Two of the four players charged in the case have already been convicted and sentenced to prison following jury trials: Brandon Vandenberg and Cory Batey.
Images of the rape recovered from Banks' cellphone helped convict former Vanderbilt football teammates Vandenburg and Batey of raping an unconscious female co-ed. Banks' Attorney Katie Hagan argued her client isn't responsible for their actions.
Those videos were played during Banks' trial. The jury also heard testimony from the woman who was raped. Prosecutors say the victim is committed to getting justice, as she's testified at multiple hearings.
Banks has been charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The 23-year-old pleaded not guilty.
Norman said Monday that a video shows Banks assaulted the student with a water bottle. She said Banks' cellphone contained 23 of 41 photos of the assault. Prosecutors say Banks not only photographed the victim but participated in the assault.
Banks' defense argued he was bullied and pressured into his role in the rape.
Prosecutors played the videos found on Banks' cellphone of the brutal gang rape of the unconscious woman.
Banks' former roommate Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie described taking photographs as Banks and two other men sexually assaulted an unconscious woman on a Vanderbilt dorm room floor. McKenzie is also facing rape charges, and it's believed that his testimony helped get Vandenberg and Batey convicted.
Banks testified saying he believed their goal was to bring the woman to the dorm room. He said he'd been ridiculed and called gay for not having sex with women on campus as part of what football players called "the body count" to track how many women they had sex with.
Banks admitted to touching the female victim and the water bottle used to assault her.
The female victim testified saying she does not remember the assault and did not know Banks.
Below is the full reading of Banks' verdict in court on Friday night.