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Jury convicts 2 ex-Vanderbilt players of raping woman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A jury convicted two ex-Vanderbilt football players on Tuesday of raping a former student, rejecting claims that they were too drunk to know what they were doing and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be blamed for the attack.
The jury deliberated for three hours before announcing that Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery.
Batey was stoic, staring ahead and Vandenburg shook his head "no," appearing stunned. His father had an outburst and abruptly left the courtroom.
The victim, a 21-year-old neuroscience and economics major at the time of the June 2013 attack, cried as each guilty verdict was announced. The men face decades in prison when they are sentenced March 6.
The jury heard two weeks of dramatic testimony from a parade of witnesses, including police, former and current Vanderbilt students and the woman, who said she didn't remember what happened that night, only that she woke up in a strange dorm room. They also saw cellphone images from the night of the attack that Vandenburg sent to his friends as it was happening.
Despite the photos and video, and witnesses seeing the woman unconscious and at least partially naked in a dorm hallway, no one reported it.
The victim said in a statement she was hopeful the publicity from the case would lead to a discussion of how to end sexual violence on college campuses. In Nashville, where the prestigious private university is located, hundreds of college officials from across the state were meeting this week to discuss exactly that.
"Finally, I want to remind other victims of sexual violence: You are not alone. You are not to blame," she said.
Vandenburg and Batey were on trial together, but represented by different attorneys. Attorneys for Vandenburg, who had been seeing the woman, said he did not assault her.
Testimony showed Vandenburg passed out condoms to the other players, slapped her buttocks and said he couldn't have sex with the woman because he was high on cocaine.
Batey raped the woman and urinated on her, prosecutors said. His attorneys argued the images didn't show that.
Defense lawyers argued that Vandenburg and Batey were too drunk to know what they were doing and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be partly to blame.
During closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman told jurors that the college culture argument was a "red herring" and that the athletes thought the law didn't apply to them.
"That's the culture that you really saw here," Thurman said. "Their mindset that they can get away with anything."
Earlier, one of the defense attorneys conceded that Vandenburg took "deplorable" photos, but shouldn't be convicted of rape because he didn't take part in it.
"He took photographs that he never should have taken," attorney Fletcher Long said.
Batey, of Nashville, turned 21 on Tuesday. Vandenburg, 21, is from Indio, Calif.
Vandenburg's roommate at the time testified that he had been on the top bunk and saw the woman face down on the floor. He said he heard one of the players say he was going to have sex with her, but didn't do anything because he was afraid.
Rumors about what happened quickly spread around campus, and the assault might have gone unnoticed had the university not stumbled onto the closed-circuit TV images several days later in an unrelated attempt to learn who damaged a dormitory door. The images showed players carrying an unconscious woman into an elevator and down a hallway, taking compromising pictures of her and then dragging her into the room.
School authorities contacted police, who found the digital trail of images.
The university said after the verdict that they had kicked the players off the team many months ago, expelled them from school and were confident they acted appropriately.
"We will also continue our comprehensive ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the importance of every Vanderbilt student intervening when another student is at risk or in distress," the school said in a statement.
Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie, who is also charged in the case, testified he did not touch the woman himself but also took pictures.
No trial date has been set for him and Brandon Banks, the fourth former player accused in the assault. Banks did not testify.
Wed, 28 Jan 2015 00:59:00 +0000
Super Bowl, Tiger make Phoenix center of sports universe
PHOENIX (AP) Tiger Woods will tee off his season in front of 200,000 golf fans and an estimated million people will flock to a revived Phoenix downtown for NFL events.
A pair of NBA games will be played in the heart of it all. Concerts abound and there will be parties galore.
Oh yes, there's a football game, too. Although the Super Bowl is actually being played 30 minutes away in suburban Glendale.
Super Bowl week is always a spectacle. With the addition of golf's biggest name in its most raucous tournament, the scene in and around Phoenix this week should be even crazier. For a few days, what once was a desert wasteland is the center of the sports and entertainment world.
"It kind of puts us on the map," Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "It kind of gives us that networking that we don't have like other teams - the Dallas Cowboys or the New York teams. Everybody can see what the state is all about."
The fun will stretch from Glendale to the west to Scottsdale in the east.
The epicenter is downtown Phoenix, where 12 blocks have been cordoned off for a myriad of Super Bowl activities and displays. Thanks to a temporary law change, fans can wander through with open containers of alcohol.
A few steps away is the NFL Experience, billed as the league's interactive theme park, set up in the Phoenix Convention Center.
Walk a block or so, and there's US Airways Center, where the ever-entertaining, often-bizarre Media Day was held on Tuesday, with fans able to witness it for $28.50 a pop. The arena swings back into its usual purpose on Wednesday night, when the Washington Wizards play the Suns. Friday night, the Chicago Bulls are in town.
Scottsdale has a party scene any weekend. Super Bowl weekend it goes over the top. Streets around the clubs will be blocked off with Maxim and Rolling Stone among those hosting gatherings.
In north Scottsdale there will be a giant party that happens to have a golf tournament running through the middle of it.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open, played on the spacious TPC Scottsdale course, has by far the biggest crowds on the PGA tour, with Saturday always the party day. Now that Woods is playing in the tournament for the first time in 14 years, it should be even more crowded, as hard as that is to imagine. Tournament officials have said more than 200,000 are expected this Saturday.
Among those performing somewhere around town will be Lil Wayne, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker, Imagine Dragons and Kevin Hart. Rihanna has an invitation-only gig in Glendale on Saturday night.
And, of course, Katy Perry will perform at halftime on Sunday.
The Pro Bowl kicked everything off.
Usually played in Hawaii, it was moved for this one season to the site of the Super Bowl. A sellout crowd of 63,225 packed the Sunday night event.
This will be the third Super Bowl for the Phoenix area. The first was in 1996 at Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. In 2008, the game was played at University of Phoenix Stadium, with the New York Giants stunning previously unbeaten New England.
At the time, downtown Phoenix was entangled in scaffolding for one project after another.
For the Super Bowl to return, it's an upgrade that was essential.
"It's really been the $44 billion development to the downtown Phoenix area," said Devney Preuss, senior director off the Arizona Super Bowl host committee. "That created a downtown area that's primed and ready for an event like this."
Hotels and restaurants were built. The convention center was expanded. A light rail line opened from Mesa to downtown.
Now more big games are on the way.
Next January, the college football championship game is in Glendale. The following year, it's a college football playoff semifinal game. And in spring of 2017, the stadium hosts the Final Four.
For the Phoenix area, it seems, the party's just begun.
Tue, 27 Jan 2015 22:18:00 +0000
Kraft takes the offensive, defends team, seeks NFL apology
CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) The New England Patriots came out swinging upon their arrival at the Super Bowl.
Not star quarterback Tom Brady or All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Not coach Bill Belichick, either.
The team owner on Monday night demanded an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules regarding using under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game.
A conclusion Kraft is certain will occur.
In an unscheduled statement, Kraft strongly defended his team's actions and integrity, growing more fiery with each sentence.
"I want to make it clear that I believe, unconditionally, that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules," Kraft said at the team's first media availability in Arizona.
"If the (Ted) Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular to coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they've had to endure this week."
NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss are leading the probe. Wells was the investigator in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal and has said the current investigation could last a while.
Kraft welcomes a thorough search.
"I'm disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon," Kraft said, pointing directly to reports citing anonymous sources. "We expect hard facts rather than circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation."
The NFL has said evidence shows the Patriots used underinflated footballs during the first half of the AFC title game victory over Indianapolis. The league is still determining why the balls were underinflated.
"I am confident that this investigation will uncover whatever the facts were that took place last Sunday and the science of how game balls react to changes in the environment," Kraft added. "This would be in direct contrast to the public discourse, which has been driven by media leaks as opposed to actual data and facts. Because of this, many jumped to conclusions and made scarring accusations against our coach, quarterback and staff questioning the integrity of all involved."
Belichick and Brady followed Kraft to the podium, but basically left any comments on the investigation to their boss.
When asked if he was upset by the accusations and jokes of which he was the subject, Brady said: "I've moved past those initial feelings and I want to move forward."
But moving away from the deflated footballs theme will be particularly difficult on media day, when just about any question has been fair game in the past.
So Kraft came out swinging before then with a speech tinged with emotion - and fire.
"Tom, Bill and I have been together for 15 years. They are my guys," said Kraft, who has three Super Bowl titles and three other trips to the big game since 2001.
"They are part of my family. Bill, Tom and I have had many difficult discussions over the years. I've never known them to lie to me. That's why I'm confident in saying what I just said.
"It bothers me greatly their reputations and integrity - and by association that of our team - has been called into question this week."
This hardly is the first time the Patriots have been under such scrutiny. Most famously was 2007, their undefeated regular season. Revelations that New England videotaped New York Jets coaches' signals during a game cost Belichick a $500,000 fine, and the team was fined $250,000 and stripped of its 2008 first-round draft choice by the NFL.
During this year's playoffs, Ravens coach John Harbaugh accused the Patriots of being deceitful with some alignments on offense. The NFL exonerated Kraft's team of any wrongdoing.
Now, Kraft has taken the offensive.
"I, and our entire organization," he said, "believe strongly in the integrity of the game and the rules of fair play are properly, equitably and fairly enforced."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:41:00 +0000
Golfer Allenby stands by story, says truth will come out
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) A defiant and at times angry Robert Allenby stood by his story Tuesday that he was robbed and beaten in Honolulu, basing the account on what he remembered and what he was told by a homeless woman who came to his aid.
"There has definitely been a lot of confusion," Allenby said. "But I think the No. 1 thing that you should all remember is that my story stays exactly the same as the way I told it. I told you what I knew, and I told you what someone told me. That's the bottom line. I never lied to anyone."
Honolulu police are investigating the Jan. 16 incident as second-degree robbery. No arrests have been made.
Allenby says he was at Amuse Wine Bar with his caddie and a friend from Australia on the night he missed the cut at the Sony Open. He said surveillance tape shows him leaving the bar with three people he doesn't recognize, and that his next memory is being in a park. He said a homeless woman told him he had been thrown out of a trunk, which he said caused his injuries.
Allenby posted a photo of his bloodied forehead and a swollen eye to his private Facebook account. He said he was robbed of wallet and phone, though the credit card he used to pay for dinner and wine was still in his front pocket.
In the last week, however, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser quoted the homeless woman, Charade Keane, as saying she never told Allenby she saw him in a trunk and did not how he was injured. The newspaper quoted another homeless man in the park, Chris Khamis, as saying Allenby told him he was depressed and drugged at a strip club and that he passed out and hit his head on a lava rock.
Exactly what happened remains a mystery, even for Allenby. He said Tuesday he has "no memory in my brain" from about 11:06 p.m. to 1:27 a.m. on that date.
"I have been trying and overlooking and going backward and forward, and there is just nothing," he said. "I can't tell you how frustrating that is because we all want to know the truth."
The 43-year-old Australian said headaches subsided a few days ago and he chose to play in the Phoenix Open to try to get his life back on track.
His face looked relatively clean as he spoke to reporters - his injuries drew more attention than any of his 22 wins around the world - and the crowd was even larger because the podium was in front of the caddie hospitality tent.
Allenby saved his anger for the media, whom he sarcastically claimed to be "amazing experts at investigations."
"I was a victim, and all of a sudden you're putting all the blame on me," Allenby said. "I take full responsibility if I did do something wrong. ... At the end of the day, I was in a place having a nice dinner and having a nice night, and then I became a victim. And now, it's all been turned around.
"The police will come out with the right story."
Pressed for details, Allenby kept referring to the 2 1/2-hour stretch where he blanked out. He previously told The Associated Press he had two receipts in his front pocket - along with his credit card used to pay for dinner and win - that were time stamped at 10:06 p.m. and 10:48 p.m.
Allenby said he was not drunk. "There's no way in the world what I drank could do what was done to me - not a chance in the world," he said. He also said he had blood tests to see if anything was detected in his system. He told the AP last week that doctors chose not to do a drug test the day after the incident because whatever was in his system likely would not be there for more than a few hours.
The photo, first shown on Golf Channel during the third round of the Sony Open, is what generated so much attention. Allenby said he posted it as a way to reach his family - he is divorced with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter - because he was so disoriented he couldn't remember his phone number.
Tiger Woods, returning from his own dose of a photograph gone viral, was asked about Allenby before anyone quizzed him on how he lost his front tooth.
"I know he got beat up. I don't know much about it. I just saw a quick headline," Woods said. "I saw a photo. He didn't look very good."
Allenby has had a contentious relationship with the media throughout his career. He got into a public argument with fellow Melbourne native Geoff Ogilvy that Australian media said was close to a fight. And at the Presidents Cup in 2009 in San Francisco, he accused Anthony Kim of being out partying until the wee hours of the Sunday matches - this after Kim beat him in a singles match, 5 and 3.
The reception is gets at the TPC Scottsdale could be brutal. This is the rowdiest tournament of the year, especially at the par-3 16th that is set up like an arena.
"Mentally, I'm preparing myself for probably one of the toughest weeks of my life," Allenby said. "It hasn't been an easy week last week, and it wasn't an easy decision to come to this tournament. But I thought that I need to get my life back on track. I'm a professional golfer. And why should I let controversy put me out of the game that I love?"
Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:23:00 +0000
Kobe Bryant to have shoulder surgery, likely out for season
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Kobe Bryant will have surgery Wednesday on his torn right rotator cuff, likely ending his 19th season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant seriously aggravated a lingering shoulder ache while dunking last week in New Orleans. The star guard and the Lakers decided Monday on surgery, which typically requires several months of rehabilitation.
The Lakers will announce a timetable for Bryant's recovery after surgery, but coach Byron Scott anticipates losing the third-leading scorer in NBA history for the rest of the year.
"Kobe is probably not going to play" again this season, Scott said.
"We all know how tough he is," Scott added after Monday's practice. "He's a trooper, so we pray for him that his return will be sooner rather than later."
The 36-year-old Bryant's torn rotator cuff is likely his third straight season-ending injury. He missed the 2013 playoffs with a torn Achilles tendon, and he played just six games last season before breaking a bone near his left knee. His famously resilient body has finally worn down from the accumulated grind of nearly two decades and several lengthy postseasons with the Lakers, including five NBA title runs.
After returning at nearly full strength in training camp, Bryant sat out eight games to rest in the last month and played on a strict minutes limit. He still dealt with assorted aches and setbacks before he injured his shoulder.
Bryant met with Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic on Monday, determining his injury's extent and deciding on surgery. He is averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 35 games this season, but shooting a career-worst 37.3 percent in a wildly inconsistent season.
The Lakers reacted to the news with disappointment and respect for Bryant, who was selected to the All-Star game for the 17th time last week.
"Kobe is a warrior," Lakers forward Carlos Boozer said. "He's strong, and he's going to attack rehab like he always has."
The Lakers also discouraged speculation that Bryant's career might be over. He is the NBA's highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season, and he is under contract for $25 million next year.
"I think he's done everything that you can possibly do in this league, and I think at times, we don't appreciate all the stuff that he's been able to accomplish," Scott said. "I don't think we appreciate how tough he is, all the injuries and other things that he's played with, to be able to come back the way that he's come back. I don't see Kobe as the type of guy that wants to leave his legacy on (these) terms. I think he wants to go out on his own terms. We'll just have to wait and see."
The Lakers (12-33) are in the midst of another aimless season, losing eight straight heading into Tuesday's visit from Washington. The 16-time NBA champion franchise is almost certain to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976.
The Lakers also owe a first-round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns to complete their disastrous trade for Steve Nash, who played just 65 games in the last three years and never suited up this season. But Los Angeles will keep the pick this summer if it lands in the top five, providing ample incentive for fans to hope the Lakers' collapse is total.
Bryant wasn't at the Lakers' training complex Monday, and he didn't attend their loss to Houston on Sunday night. Scott plans to speak with Bryant throughout the week to see what he's thinking about his future, but he hopes Bryant isn't ready to quit.
"With the Achilles last year, everybody said he was done," Scott said. "He came back and I think the first month of the season, he proved to everybody that he still has a lot left in the tank. I think he still has that hunger and that competitive nature to come out and prove it again. After the surgery, I'll talk to him and see how it is. We'll talk and we'll go from there."
Tue, 27 Jan 2015 03:14:00 +0000