Judge: Date rape drug testimony can’t be used in Vandenburg retrial

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The judge has made a major ruling regarding testimony in the retrial for Brandon Vandenburg.

The attorneys for the former football player filed a motion asking the court to exclude any reference to a “date rape drug.”

Judge Monte Watkins ruled in favor of the defense, saying the state cannot mention date rape drugs because DNA tests could not find traces of one.

The state was building an argument against Vandenburg to accuse him of slipping the alleged victim a date rape drug.

The state planned to argue that Vandenburg, unlike the other defendants, knew the woman would not wake up because he drugged her.

In the first trial, the woman testified that one of her last memories of the night was Vandenburg handing her a blue drink at the Tin Roof.

“He had it in his hand and he said, ‘Out in California, this is our version of the Long Island iced tea. You have to try it,’ the victim said. “The next thing I remember is waking up in a room a really long time later and I didn’t recognize the room.”

Channel 4 legal analyst Jim Todd said if the state could prove date rape drugs were involved, that would help prove intent. Now they won’t get the chance.

“Everything in the case was consistent with a date rape drug, including Mr. Vandenburg’s statements, except the fact that the TBI didn’t find any evidence of it,” Todd said.

“The date rape drug was a good argument for them given the color of the drink, given her symptoms that she doesn’t remember what happened, and so having that taken away hurts them,” Todd added.

The alleged sexual assault happened in a Vanderbilt dorm room in 2013.

Vandenburg and co-defendant Cory Batey were found guilty in a trial in 2015, but that verdict was later thrown out due to allegations of juror misconduct.

A jury found Batey guilty of rape and other lesser charges during his retrial in April. He will be sentenced in July.

The two other men charged in this case, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, have not been tried.

Vandenburg is not implicated in the pictures and videos the way Batey and the other defendants are. The jury will mainly hear his voice.

“We have to remember that Vandenburg is on the video and on the audio kind of orchestrating the event, directing the event. And there are some pretty damaging text messages that he sends to his friends in California that sort of cements the fact that he assisted,” Todd said.

Vandenburg’s retrial is scheduled to begin in June.

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