A Nashville judge ruled Friday that Brandon Vandenburg will spend 17 years in prison for his role in the rape of an unconscious woman in his Vanderbilt University dorm room more than three years ago.
Vandenburg, 23, was found guilty of five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and unlawful photography in the June 2013 incident that brought a national spotlight on colleges' response to sexual assault to Nashville.
Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins handed down the sentence Friday.
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Though his courtroom at the Justice A.A. Birch Courthouse in downtown Nashville was more crowded than usual, a reflection of the high-profile case, one person was missing.
The rape victim.
The woman, who graduated and moved out of state to pursue an advanced degree, did not attend the sentencing hearing.
Instead, Assistant District Attorney General Jan Norman read a statement on her behalf.
"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," Norman read.
"I still ask that he receive the full sentence allowed under the law for orchestrating the 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."
More than three years ago the woman was betrayed by the man she was dating, Vandenburg. Two juries have now found the California native guilty for his role, for bringing the woman into his dorm in the early morning hours of June 23, 2013, and encouraging the sexual assault.
Four members of the Commodores football team were charged with aggravated rape for what authorities said happened that night. Two, Brandon E. Banks and Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie, have pleaded guilty and their cases are pending.
Vandenburg stood trial in January 2015 with another former football player, Cory Batey. Both were found guilty, but Watkins declared a mistrial five months later because a juror did not disclose he was a past victim of sexual assault.
Batey and Vandenburg faced second juries separately. Batey was found guilty and sentenced in July to 15 years in prison, the minimum term for his crimes allowed under Tennessee law.
Vandenburg, the once standout tight end recruit, was found guilty at trial in June. He has been behind bars in Nashville since.
He will now go to Bledsoe County Correctional Complex for intake and an assessment to determine where in the Tennessee Department of Correction he will serve his sentence.