JOE BIDDLE: Vanderbilt rape trial was life-changing

Verdict being read - Cory Batey, Brandon Vandenburg
Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg as the verdict was read. (Jan. 27, 2015)

The Vanderbilt rape trial was life-changing, to say the least.

Just think of all the people involved. Their lives will never be the same. Four former Vanderbilt football players were in the prime of life, awarded football scholarships that would provide them not only a free education, but one that could lead to various job opportunities.

The female victim that was at the center of the highly publicized trial has since graduated from Vanderbilt and is enrolled in a post-graduate program at another out of state university.

Even though her name and face has been shielded during the trial, they will eventually make their way through chat rooms and social media outlets if it hasn’t already happened.

You also have to account for the impact it had on the guilty parties’ families. The wailing of football player Brandon Vandenburg’s father after he heard his son’s guilty verdict, was heart-gripping.

Former Ensworth and Vanderbilt football star Cory Batey strove to be the first son in his large family to attend and graduate from college.

The trial was front-page news for 12 days. It led every newscast. Once the visual and audio accounts of the rape were shown to the jury, those inside the courtroom could tell by the looks on the faces of the jurors that the defense needed a miracle to get their clients off the charges.

There was none forthcoming. It was a slam-dunk case for the prosecutors.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and cellphones belonging to Vandenburg and Batey painted enough of the picture of what transpired that night when the five people had been heavily drinking at a bar near campus.

What the two guilty men did to the unconscious 21-year-old female was barbaric. Batey did apologize for his part in the sexual assault and other charges. It was too little, too late. Vandenburg never took the stand, rarely uttering any valid defense for his actions that played a major role in the incident.

Two more former Vanderbilt football players turned state evidence, testifying against their former teammates in hopes of getting lighter sentences. Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip’’ McKenzie, both 20 years old, cooperated with the prosecutors and will likely get lighter sentences.

These four young men are going to enter the world of incarceration. They go from being carefree, fun loving college students to jailbirds. They go from wearing Polo to prison wear. The go from having a football jersey with a number on it to a numerical identification stamped on the front of their prison tops.

They go from doing what they like to do, when they like to do it and answering to no one. It is a lifestyle they have never experienced, one that will challenge them like no other.

They will likely be confined to a small one-man cell for as many as 23 hours a day, year around. They will have an hour outside the cell to shower, exercise or just enjoy what little slice of time they have without being locked in, with little or no privacy.

They will go from eating prepared meals at a training table in McGugin Center to jail food. No midnight runs to a fast food restaurant. Most jail food I have seen is basic and hardly edible. You can only eat so many baloney and peanut butter sandwiches day after day, month after month, year after year.

Once the word gets around, and it likely already has, that their new neighbors are rapists, they will be targets of attempted sexual assaults by hardened criminals, not young men their age.

The case has left a black mark on the university, although it must be said that the large majority of colleges and universities have, or will have, similar situations with athletes and non-athletes.

Other fans should not be gloating over Vanderbilt’s misery. They will be in similar shoes in the future. Drinking alcohol, keg parties, marijuana and other drugs are all available to college students. Weekends are party weekends in college.

Moving forward, Vanderbilt must crack down on the social scene on campus, especially on weekends. Drinking has been a problem for years there. It is not unlike what occurs at many other colleges, but when it becomes the center of a national story, it becomes most unwelcome publicity.

Publicity even Vanderbilt can’t afford.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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