Four former Vanderbilt football players face rape charges
All four have pleaded not guilty
Lawyers for one of the defendants say evidence in the case has gone missing
The claim comes in a filing by lawyers seeking dismissal of the charge against their client
Attorneys for a former Vanderbilt football player charged with rape are asking a judge to toss the case, saying several pieces of evidence have allegedly gone missing.
And the attorneys reveal in court papers filed this week that then-head coach James Franklin had a conversation with the woman who later became the accuser in which he asked her to arrange for “fifteen pretty girls” to help with recruiting.
The attorneys for Brandon Vandenburg – one of four former Vanderbilt football players charged with raping a woman last summer – say that the accuser told this to police during an interview that has not been handed over during the pre-trial process.
In it that interview, the attorneys say, the woman told police that Franklin also contacted her after the rape to check on her well-being since she had helped them with recruiting.
It’s not clear how they know what was said in during this missing interview. Police or prosecutors have not confirmed the interview.
“Coach Franklin called her in for a private meeting and told her he wanted her to get fifteen pretty girls together and form a team to assist with the recruiting even though he knew it was against the rules. He added that other colleges did it,” the motion seeking dismissal says.
The “rules” are presumably those of the NCAA. In 2004, after several allegations of rape at get-togethers designed to woo prospective players, the NCAA passed a rule that said that students who host recruits during campus visits “must be either current student-athletes or students consistent with the school’s policy for providing campus visits or tours to prospective students generally,” NCAA spokeswoman Emily James told CNN. “The overall intent of the rule was to preclude athletics departments (from) specific hosting groups , which were most commonly, gender specific.”
The NCAA did not say if it will look into the claims made against Franklin in this court filing.
“What is important to recognize about this rule, is that it is not about maintaining a level playing field – all schools can afford to have all female recruiting club(s) – it was passed to prevent sexual assaults, to create a healthier environment on campuses,” said Todd Crossett, associate professor of sport management at the University of Massachusettes-Amherst. Crosset has been an expert witness in three Title IX civil suits involving sexual assaults by athletes, including the case at the University of Colorado-Boulder which led to the NCAA’s ban on female hostess recruiting parties.
Franklin responded to the motion seeking dismissal with a public statement: “The allegations that I did something wrong are simply not true. I have cooperated fully with the authorities in this matter but, out of respect for the legal process, I am not able to comment any further.”
Vanderbilt declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, and so did Penn State, where Franklin was hired in January and is preparing for a much-anticipated first season.
Penn State, coming off the heels of the sexual abuse scandal of Jerry Sandusky, faced some criticism from victim advocates when Franklin was hired, since the case involving Vandenburg and others at Vanderbilt wasn’t yet resolved.
The prosecutor in the criminal case has said that Franklin cooperated with police and “There’s no evidence whatsoever where Coach Franklin was involved in any way in the cover-up or has done anything inappropriate.”
The rest the motion from Vandenburg’s attorneys deals with allegations of misconduct against the prosecutors, whom Vandenburg’s attorneys say destroyed or lost evidence.
Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson responded with a statement, saying: “The fact is, our office has given defense counsel for all four defendants complete access to the investigative file as the materials have become available.”
He did not specifically deny whether there was an interview missing.
Among the things Vandenburg’s attorneys says he never got missing are text-message records and call logs of Franklin, the alleged victim and other football staff members.
The motion also alleges that Franklin met with the woman in the hospital and told her he cared about her because she had assisted him with recruiting.
It goes on to request interviews, police records, medical records and communication records.
Vandenburg is accused of taking an unconscious Vanderbilt woman into a building on campus on June 23. He allegedly was joined in his dorm room by three other now-former Vanderbilt football players also indicted on charges of rape: Cory Batey, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, authorities said.
All four were dismissed from the team following the allegation. They all have pleaded not guilty.
Penn State, when Franklin was hired, said the university thoroughly vetted Franklin and dismissed criticism that he wasn’t a good choice in the wake of the Sandusky scandal that ended the career of legendary coach Joe Paterno and the indictment of the Penn State’s former president, athletic director, and vice president for finance.
But claims of a thorough vetting wasn’t enough to appease some critics. One of them was Jennifer Storm, a victims advocate in Pennsylvania, who said Wednesday that she believes Penn State could not have known all the details in a fluid investigation like the one at Vanderbilt.
“It doesn’t make any rational sense for an institution coming off such a horrific scandal to then hire someone in the midst of a scandal himself,” Storm said.
In 2004, after reports of women being assaulted at all-female recruiting parties, the NCAA banned such gatherings, although news reports in the last 10 years painted a picture of them continuing to happen at schools.