May 21, 2018 / 5:18 PM / 3 months ago

Ex-Vanderbilt football player in U.S. rape case gets suspended sentence

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A former Vanderbilt University football player charged in the 2013 rape of an unconscious female student in a university dormitory accepted a plea deal on Monday that allows him to avoid jail while the other three men in the case serve lengthy terms.

Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, 23, who had previously been charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery, pleaded guilty to one count of facilitation of aggravated rape.

The case, which largely rested on cell-phone video the players took of their actions and on McKenzie’s testimony, sparked discussion about sexual assault on college campuses. There was no video showing McKenzie touching the unconscious woman.

McKenzie, who testified against the other men in the case, received a 10-year suspended sentence, 10 years of supervised probation and is being placed on the lifetime sexual offender registry, according to Judge Monte Watkins, who has presided over all of the proceedings related to the incident.

McKenzie also is forbidden from ever speaking or writing or making public statements about the case.

Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman, who has participated in the prosecution of all of the cases, began the short hearing in Davidson County Criminal Court in Nashville by briefly recounting the June 2013 incident and then presented the plea agreement.

McKenzie, clad in a blue shirt and wearing a well-trimmed beard, acknowledged the plea deal in response to questions from the judge.

While they have appeals pending, the other three men in the case, Brandon Banks, 24, Cory Batey, 24, and Brandon Vandenburg, 24, are serving prison terms of 15 years for the first two and 17 years for Vandenburg.

Vandenburg and Batey were convicted in 2015, but a mistrial was declared and they were later retried and convicted separately. Banks’ was convicted last June.

Vandenburg and the victim, who had been dating, met for drinks at a bar popular with students. Both had been drinking prior to meeting, according to earlier testimony.

Vandenburg took the victim, who has not been named, back to his dormitory, and the other men helped carry her to his room, where the rape occurred, prosecutors said.

Reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville

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