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Some Records In Vandy Rape Case Should Be Made Public; Do Vandy Fans Have A Different View Now?

James-Franklin-contemplativeLast year right on up through this January, anytime we wrote of the Vanderbilt rape case we would receive several nasty emails from Commodore fans accusing us of trying to hurt James Franklin’s reputation.  That was nonsense then — we said we didn’t think he was involved in a cover-up — and it’s nonsense now.  But are Vandy fans still so worried about Franklin’s image?

Here’s guessing they’re not.

A judge ruled yesterday that some of the records from the case should now be released to the media as the public has a right to see them.  ”Some text messages, emails and other material collected by Vanderbilt University” should now be given to the press.  However, the judge put a stay on his own order — delaying the release of the information — pending an appeal from the Metro government which has tried to keep the documents hidden.

You might recall that a lawyer for one of the four ex-VU footballers accused of sexual assault said last year that the defense team should be allowed to see all records of cell phone and text communications between the players and their coaches after the attack allegedly took place.  Depending on which text message transcripts are released to the public — if they’re released — we may soon see for ourselves whether or not Franklin or any other assistants were in communication with the players as they attempted to cover their tracks.

One wonders at this point if some, many, or most Vanderbilt fans haven’t flip-flopped on this case altogether since Franklin up and skedaddled to Penn State just weeks before National Signing Day.  It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to learn that some of the same people who wanted the press to stop trying to find dirt on Franklin while he was at Vandy would now want the press to dig away and expose their ex-coach as a fraud.

Let’s just say we believe it’s probably a safe bet that The Tennessean — which led the charge to get the records released — is getting fewer angry emails today than they would have if Franklin were still coaching on Nashville’s West End.  So now it’s Penn State fans’ turn to sweat and fret the possibility that something negative about Franklin might come to light thanks to this potential records release.

Now, the DA’s office has made it very clear that they found zero evidence of any wrongdoing tied to Franklin.  We still have absolutely no reason to doubt them.  But if these records are released, we’ll all be able to finally see for ourselves what — if any — involvement Franklin had in the players’ attempted cover-up.

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Vandy’s Franklin A Wanted Man, Even In Some Places We Wouldn’t Have Expected

James-Franklin-contemplativeWhen it comes to interviewees for head coaching jobs, no one in the country is more sought after at this moment than Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.  We’re talking about a Stage 5, Gruden-level feeding frenzy.  And why not?  The Commodores’ coach just wrapped up back-to-back 9-4 seasons, he’s won 16 of his last 20 games, and he’s taken to Vandy to three bowl games, winning two of them.  Short of walking across the Cumberland River, Franklin has proven about all a man can prove at what had been the SEC’s traditional cellar-dweller.

That’s why he’s on Penn State’s short list.  That’s why the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins have reportedly asked for permission to speak with him.  It’s why the Houston Texans did speak to him (reportedly) and why the Tennessee Titans might check to see if he’d be interested in moving a couple of miles across town.

The NFL thing seems a bit farfetched as the two biggest pluses for the young coach are his infectious enthusiasm and his recruiting ability.  And recruiting doesn’t help a whole bunch in the pro game.  That’s not to say Franklin can’t X and O with the best of them, but it’s his attitude — which he’s instilled into Vanderbilt’s program — that’s drawn raves from pundits and wowed some NFL owners.

Today the NFL Network reported that the Washington Redskins plan to meet with Franklin, “likely” this week.  He is believed to have met with Penn State officials yesterday.  There the Pennsylvania native is on a short list that includes two former Nittany Lion players-turned-coaches: Mike Munchak and Larry Johnson.

For his part, Franklin has remained mum at every turn.  Asked by The Tennessean for an interview yesterday he simply texted back: “Excited about going to LA, we can talk later.”  Franklin will be a part of ESPN’s coverage of tonight’s Auburn/Florida State BCS Championship Game.

Tennessean reporter Jeff Lockridge tweeted today that co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry has pulled out of the Georgia Southern head coaching search:

 

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Whether that means Pry will stay at Vandy or move with Franklin to the pros or — more likely — Penn State remains to be seen.

The one surprising point in the Penn State/Franklin talk is the lack of talk regarding the ongoing court cases of four former VU players arrested for sexual assault.  As noted previously, defense attorneys for one of the accused requested that the Nashville DA send them transcripts of all phone and/or text conversations between the players and their coaches — including Franklin — on the night of the alleged rape.

As we’ve stated repeatedly, we don’t believe for a second that Franklin helped his players cover up such a heinous act.  However.  If you’re Penn State University can you really afford to ignore the possibility — no matter how small — that Franklin might have helped cover up some portion of something?

David Jones of PennLive.com is the only columnist to broach the topic to date, writing:

 

“But a rape case involving four of his former players at Vanderbilt is ongoing.  Though Franklin has, to this point, been cleared by police and the local DA of any wrongdoing including involvement in a cover-up of any type, the trial is still pending.”

 

Left unwritten is the fact that PSU just went through a massive beatdown at the hands of the justice system, the NCAA, and the public at large for a widespread cover-up of former assistant Jerry Sandusky’s own sex crimes against young boys.

For that reason, if there were one job in America this writer would have automatically ruled out as a potential landing spot for Franklin… it would have been PSU.  So much for that.

Perhaps the folks at Penn State feel they can put up with one or two uncomfortable questions at an introductory press conference if it means introducing the right guy.  Perhaps they feel completely at ease with Franklin’s assurances that there are no skeletons in his closet when it comes to the sexual assault case involving his ex-players.

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Vandy Rape Case Not Going Away; Prosecutor (A Tennessee Fan) Says He’s Not Protecting The Dores’ QB

investigationIt’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.

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Dad Of Vandy WR Boyd Angry That His Son Has Been Connected To Rape Case

gfx - they said itThe Vanderbilt rape case just gets uglier and uglier by the week.  After an initial arrest of four Commodore football players, another player — top receiver Chris Boyd — was charged with attempting to help “cover up” the rape.  Nashville police accused Boyd of aiding some of the defendants who had already been indicted.

Now, the father of Boyd is speaking out against Nashville’s District Attorney for ruining his son’s name unnecessarily:

 

“Whatever they want, they could have gotten without indicting my son.  I don’t know how he gets his name back.  He’s 21.  I don’t know how someone repairs their integrity and character after this.  There is nothing bigger…

We’re holding him together.  We’re waiting to find out what the DA wants or needs to satisfy them.  All three of my boys are Eagle Scouts, and they have never been in trouble.  It goes without saying that they tell the truth, and he did.”

 

The elder Boyd said his son cooperated with authorities during “two or three meetings.”  He will have his first court hearing tomorrow morning.

Vanderbilt suspended Boyd following his arrest.

Depending on the amount of help Boyd provided to his teammates, we could come down on this one in a couple of different ways.  While no one should ever attempt to cover up a crime — especially one as heinous as the one four Vandy players are charged with — we realize that a 21-year-old asked by his friends for help might provide it without thinking of all of the potential ramifications.

Obviously, DA Susan Niland will eventually have to prove her case in court (if it gets that far).  At that point we’ll know to what extent Boyd is believed to have aided his teammates.  If it turns out Niland and the DA’s office brought charges against Boyd in order to force him to be more open about his knowledge of events, that is a rather harsh action.  As the young man’s father has noted, his son’s name has now been attached to a rape case.  It will be hard for him to put that one in the rearview mirror even if he’s eventually cleared of all charges.

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UK Hires Ex-NCAA Enforcement Worker For Compliance Department

hiredWant to find a good defense attorney?  Hire a guy who first served in the DA’s office.

Along those lines, want to keep your school’s program clean and know how to protect it if someone makes a misstep?  Hire someone who worked for the NCAA.  And that’s just what one SEC school has done.

The University of Kentucky has announced today that Rachel Newman — currently the NCAA’s managing director of enforcement for development and investigations — will be joining the UK athletic department next month as senior associate athletics director for compliance.

According to a release from AD Mitch Barnhart:

 

“As college athletics continues to change, it is important that we support and protect our coaches, student-athletes and program at the highest level.  Rachel brings a wealth of experience on a national level and a fondness to return home to Kentucky.”

 

Sharp move.

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DNA Inconclusive In LSU Bar Fight Case; If Jefferson Returns, Miles Will Have A Big Decision To Make

There’s some good news for LSU football players Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns today — tests for DNA evidence in their bar fight case have been deemed inconclusive.  A grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing evidence in the case tomorrow.

Jefferson and Johns were arrested last month on charges of second-degree battery following a bar fight in Baton Rouge that left four people hospitalized.  The pair’s shoes were DNA tested to determine whether or not Jefferson or Johns kicked one of the victims while he was on the ground.

“This case will not be determined by DNA alone,” Hiller Moore, the DA for East Baton Rouge Parish, said.  “It will depend, like most other cases, on witness testimony and their credibility.”

No doubt.  But the state tested those shoes in the hopes of proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that one of the two players was the kicker/stomper in the brawl.  And they could not do it.

“The absence of (Andrew) Lowery’s DNA on Jordan’s show supports our postition that Jordan will be cleared,” said attorney Lance Unglesby.  “He should not have been arrested.”

Both players were suspended indefinitely by LSU coach Les Miles after their arrests.  The Tigers have raced out to a 3-0 start with Jarrett Lee filling in as the team’s starting quarterback.

If/when Jefferson is released, Miles will have a big decision to make.  Will Jefferson come back and get a shot at his old job?  Or has Lee earned the starter’s gig permanently?

If he’s released, it certainly seems that Jefferson should step right back in as LSU’s quarterback.  Just as some believe a player shouldn’t lose his job due to injury, one probably shouldn’t lose his job due to a wrongful arrest, either.

But there’s also the “right and wrong” of a football team.  In a world of Wally Pipp’s and Tom Brady’s, it might be right for Jefferson to get a piece of his job back, but it seems more right for the team that Miles not upset the apple cart.

LSU is rolling along quite smoothly at the moment.  Fair or not, Miles should stick with Lee until he gives him a reason or two to call Jefferson in from the bench.  If charges against Jefferson are indeed dropped.

Of course, just having Jefferson on the bench looking over Lee’s shoulder might be enough to negatively impact how the Tiger starter plays.

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