Former Vanderbilt players in rape case could be released
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two former Vanderbilt football players who were convicted earlier this year of raping a student in a college dorm room could be out of jail as early as Wednesday afternoon.
A Nashville judge on Wednesday reinstated bail for former players Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey. Both men would have to wear GPS monitoring devices if they are released.
Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins cleared the way for the players' release a day after declaring a mistrial because of juror misconduct and setting aside their rape convictions.
An attorney who represents the alleged victim in the case declined to comment.
The declaration of a mistrial was a stunning turn of events in a highly publicized case that raised troubling new questions about rape on college campuses and the role of bystanders who fail to act.
Vandenburg and Batey were convicted in January. They and two other players were accused in the rape of an unconscious female student in a dorm room in June of 2013.
Prosecutors have vowed to retry the pair.
The two other players have yet to stand trial. But Vandenburg and Batey have been held in jail since January after the jury found them guilty on multiple counts of rape and aggravated sexual battery. They were locked up in the local jail awaiting sentencing — both face decades in prison — when revelations surfaced that the jury foreman in the case was himself a victim of sexual abuse.
Judge Watkins on Tuesday declared the mistrial after determining that the jury foreman intentionally withheld information about being a victim of statutory rape. In his ruling, Watkins said the justice system cannot tolerate a trial with a tainted juror regardless of the strength of the case.
The trial featured graphic video and photographic evidence showing the unconscious female student being violated in the dorm room. The evidence, prosecutors say, came from footage from the players' cellphones that was taken while the sexual assault was taking place.
The trial also featured testimony from several athletes at the school who saw the female student in distress but failed to call for help.
Both Vandenburg and Batey had made bail before their trial earlier this year. The judge revoked bail after jurors rendered their verdict.
Defense attorneys argued that both men should have bail reinstated because they honored the conditions in the past.
But a prosecutor countered that both men would have more reason to flee now that they have already been convicted and know the strength of the state's evidence against them and the consequences a trial could bring.
"Maybe these defendants didn't know that at the time, but I submit now they know the consequences — immediate bond revocation and penitentiary sentences," Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said.
Watkins set bond for Batey, a Nashville native, at $350,000. Bond was set at $400,000 for Vandenburg, of Indio, California. Vandenburg apparently had been issued a misdemeanor citation while he was out awaiting trial. The attorneys at the hearing did not say what the citation was for.
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