NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Convicted rapist Brandon Vandenburg was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday for the 2013 rape of an unconscious woman at a Vanderbilt University dorm.
The sentence, which is two years longer than his co-defendant Cory Batey’s, was decided by Judge Monte Watkins just before noon.
Just before announcing his decision, Judge Watkins called the case “one of the saddest case” he’s ever seen.
Previous story: Brandon Vandenburg’s sentencing pushed back until November
Prior to receiving his sentence, Vandenburg read from a prepared statement, which was was the first time he has spoken publicly about the rape that occurred in his dorm room on June 23, 2013.
The now 23-year-old told the court he was raised better than this and that he was an “inexperienced drinker” when he arrived to Vanderbilt.
“I was living out my dream and in an instant, it all changed,” Vandenburg said.
He also admitted that on the date the rape occurred he had consumed dozens of alcoholic beverages throughout the course of the day.
“I let everyone down and many lives were destroyed,” he said.
Prior to the ex-football player speaking to the court, prosecutors played a recording of Miles Finley, a friend of Vandenburg’s from California, who described sexually explicit videos and texts he received from Vandenburg on the night of the rape in June 2013.
Finley also alleged Vandenburg had used a date rape pill on a girl while they were in high school, and that he had asked Vandenburg about libido problems and cocaine use.
The defense was unhappy the recording was played, but Judge Monte Watkins wanted to hear it.
A minister and two family friends also testified in Vandenburg’s defense and took the stand as character witnesses.
One of the family friends, Shannon Fix, described him as “bright and driven” and someone who “loves his family.”
“He loves God and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his mother or two little brothers,” she said. “I would be proud to call him my son.”
Friday’s sentencing began just after 9 a.m. The victim was not there, but Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman read a statement on the young woman’s behalf.
In the statement, the victim wrote, “I had intended to give a detailed victim impact statement at today’s sentencing hearing specific to the effects of Mr. Vandenburg’s actions. As a result of the last sentencing hearing in this case, that is no longer something I am able to do. I ask that my prior statement be referenced. Two professionals who have helped me through this and witnessed the impact on me have submitted letters to you describing what they have seen, and I ask that you consider those.”
The statement continued, “Please do not use my absence as an excuse for leniency, as it in no way diminishes the profound and insidious impact of Mr. Vandenburg on me and my life. I still ask that he receive the full sentence allowed under the law for orchestrating a sustained 30-minute gang rape against me, a defenseless woman who trusted him. The minimum sentence is not enough for what this man did to me.”
Vandenburg was found guilty of five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of unlawful photography this past June.
Prosecutors said in 2013 that Vandenburg carried the woman, who he had been dating, into his dorm room, passed out condoms and took video as three of his teammates raped her.
Vandenburg faced up to 25 years in prison. He has been jailed since his conviction and has since been added to the state’s sex offender registry.
Ex-football players Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie were also charged in the case. They have yet to be tried for their alleged involvement and it remains unknown if plea deals will be accepted.
Banks’ attorney, Mark Scruggs, told News 2 he is still talking with the state in the hope of resolving the case, otherwise it will go to trial. Banks is currently in school, playing football at Lane College in Jackson.
A hearing in his case is set for Nov. 10.
News 2 reached out to McKenzie’s attorney but has not yet received a response.