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Trial start for Vanderbilt football player accused in rape

A Vanderbilt University football player charged with raping an unconscious female student says he was bullied into participating in the heinous act by his teammate, his lawyer argued during the opening of his trial Monday.

Brandon Banks’ defense attorney Katie Hagan, says he was acting under duress during the 2013 rape that was partially captured on his cellphone. The assault happened in a Vanderbilt campus dorm room.

Hagan said that teammate Brandon Vandenburg, 23, ‘was pressuring and goading’ Banks throughout the incident.

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Brandon Banks (left) and his defense attorney Katie Hagan listen during the Vanderbilt gang rape case, Monday

Brandon Banks (left) and his defense attorney Katie Hagan listen during the Vanderbilt gang rape case, Monday

Brandon Banks (left) and his defense attorney Katie Hagan listen during the Vanderbilt gang rape case, Monday

Banks' defense attorney Hagan (right) says her client was pressured into participating in the rape of a fellow Vanderbilt University student 

Banks' defense attorney Hagan (right) says her client was pressured into participating in the rape of a fellow Vanderbilt University student 

Banks’ defense attorney Hagan (right) says her client was pressured into participating in the rape of a fellow Vanderbilt University student 

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, 23, another teammate, received a 15-year sentence in April 2016. 

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  in Davidson County Criminal Court.

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.

Judge Monte Watkins listens during the trial of Brandon Banks Monday. Banks has five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Judge Monte Watkins listens during the trial of Brandon Banks Monday. Banks has five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Judge Monte Watkins listens during the trial of Brandon Banks Monday. Banks has five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Brandon Vandenburg 'goaded' Brandon Banks to allegedly participate in the rape of their fellow Vanderbilt classmate. Brandon is serving a 17-year sentence for his participation

Brandon Vandenburg 'goaded' Brandon Banks to allegedly participate in the rape of their fellow Vanderbilt classmate. Brandon is serving a 17-year sentence for his participation

Corey Batey is serving 15-years after being found guilty of rape in the Vanderbilt University case

Corey Batey is serving 15-years after being found guilty of rape in the Vanderbilt University case

Brandon Vandenburg (left) ‘goaded’ Brandon Banks to allegedly participate in the rape of their fellow Vanderbilt classmate. Brandon is serving a 17-year sentence for his participation, Corey Batey (right) is serving 15-years after being found guilty of rape

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. 

Vandenburg also took cellphone videos of the rape and emailed them to friends in California, prosecutors said.

In opening statements, defense attorney 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. 

At times during the rape, the players responded with laughter and applause, Norman said. 

Brandon Banks, former football player at Vanderbilt, in a mugshot after his arrest on the charge of rape

Brandon Banks, former football player at Vanderbilt, in a mugshot after his arrest on the charge of rape

Jaborian 'Tip' McKenzie, former football player at Vanderbilt, in a mugshot after his arrest on the charge of rape

Jaborian 'Tip' McKenzie, former football player at Vanderbilt, in a mugshot after his arrest on the charge of rape

Brandon Banks (left) former football player at Vanderbilt, in a mugshot after his arrest on the charge of rape. Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie (right) former football player at Vanderbilt, in a mugshot after his arrest on the charge of rape

‘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,’ DA Norman said in Davidson County Criminal Court.

Judge Monte Watkins is presiding over the trial.

‘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.

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.

Had it not been for Vanderbilt University police investigating vandalism in a dorm in June 2013, the rape may never have been discovered, according The Tennessean.

Campus police who were reviewing surveillance tape saw four men carrying an unconscious woman into a room at Vanderbilt’s Gillette Hall in the early morning hours of June 23.

The Nashville police detective who early one morning in July 2013 found dozens of thumbnail images and video clips of the rape has called that evidence the smoking gun. 

Detective Chad Gish, who specializes in recovering digital evidence, has been a key witness in each trial so far.

According to his prior testimony, the pictures show Batey and Banks physically participating in the assault while the woman is partially clothed and unconscious on Vandenburg’s dorm room floor.

Gish has said it is Vandenburg’s voice on video directing the others what to do and McKenzie is in the room taking pictures during the 30-minute assault. 

The DailyMail does not release the identity of victims of sexual assault. 

Brandon Banks (center) and his father, Maurice Banks (right) and one of his attorneys, Mark Scruggs, return to court following a lunch on Monday

Brandon Banks (center) and his father, Maurice Banks (right) and one of his attorneys, Mark Scruggs, return to court following a lunch on Monday

Brandon Banks (center) and his father, Maurice Banks (right) and one of his attorneys, Mark Scruggs, return to court following a lunch on Monday

Maurice Banks, Brandon Banks' father, listens during his son's trial Monday 

Maurice Banks, Brandon Banks' father, listens during his son's trial Monday 

Maurice Banks, Brandon Banks’ father, listens during his son’s trial Monday 

 


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