It’s a story that both Vanderbilt officials and fans must be praying will finally come to an end. But thanks to a new report on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” last summer’s rape case is back in the headlines.
Four Vanderbilt football players — since booted from the team — stand accused of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery for a sexual assault in a Vandy dorm last June. One of those players also faces charges of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence. All four have pled not guilty, though one is now open to a plea deal, according to his attorney.
A fifth Commodore player — receiver Chris Boyd — was also dismissed from the team when he admitted to helping cover up the rape as part of his own plea bargain.
During Boyd’s plea hearing in September, texts from the former receiver were read aloud in court. One of them identified now-injured Vandy quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels as having taken part in the cover up. Boyd’s message said: “me Carta and Vanderwal and Vandenburg helped us move her out of the hallway.” The unconscious girl was lying in the hall of a Vanderbilt dorm when she was moved by the group of players.
Dillon van der Wal is a Vanderbilt tight end. Brandon Vandenburg was one of the four players dismissed from the team after being charged with taking part in the rape.
Van der Wal has one catch on the season. Carta-Samuels was injured in the Georgia game and missed last week’s game at Texas A&M.
Continuing with the back story, four days after Boyd’s hearing the Davidson Country DA’s office said: “based upon the evidence collected to date, Boyd wrongly identified student Austyn Carta-Samuels as someone who participated in helping move the victim. Carta-Samuels and Dillon van der Wal are both listed as witnesses in the rape case against four former Vanderbilt students. Van der Wal and another student were involved in moving the victim from the hall to a dorm room, but that act alone does not constitute a crime.”
Confused yet? Well, so is just about everyone else.
How or why would Boyd — a receiver — misidentify Carta-Samuels — a teammate and his quarterback? Why is Carta-Samuels listed as a witness if he was not involved? Why so much focus on Carta-Samuels when another player — van der Wal — is still on the team after helping to move the victim?
Those issues and a “possible coverup” were the focus of this piece from “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Asked point blank in the report if the DA’s office is protecting Carta-Samuels, Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman laughed off the idea before saying, “Matter of fact, I’m a Tennessee fan so I wouldn’t be protecting a Vanderbilt quarterback.”
Thurman also said that he believes he knows how/why Boyd sent his “incorrect” text. He said that information will eventually come out during the trials of the four ex-Commodores accused of rape.
Until then, the DA’s decision to maintain secrecy in this case — specifically with regards to Carta-Samuels’ possible involvement — will only ensure that the story won’t go away and that questions will continue to be asked.