NASHVILLE, TN -- Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Boyd cut a deal with prosecutors Friday morning, avoiding a felony conviction and giving him the chance to instead have a misdemeanor conviction that would eventually be wiped from his record.
Boyd, 21, of Roswell, Ga., had been charged with accessory after the fact, a Class E felony that could have put him away for up to two years in prison. In Friday's deal,he pleaded guilty to a lesser crime involving "criminal intent" to be an accessory after the fact.
Boyd, dressed in a dark suit and saying "Yes, sir," in response to a series of questions from Judge Steve Dozier about his understanding of the situation, agreed to be placed on 11 months and 29 days of probation. If he completes the probation, his record will be cleared.
Prosecutor Tom Thurman offered a brief narrative of the events of June 23, saying at one point that cocaine might have been involved on the night of June 23, when the rape allegedly occurred. He did not connect Boyd to cocaine use, however, and said he did not expect to pursue further charges in the case.
Thurman described a series of text messages and calls between Boyd and at least two of the men accused of rape. He said Boyd also received a video text message with evidence of what had happened, but that he immediately deleted it.
Thurman said one of the four accused ex-players, Brandon Vandenburg, was asking Boyd for help on the night of the incident, and that at one point Boyd advised Vandenburg to delete the video he had sent.
He said Boyd, Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta Samuels and Vanderbilt tight end Dillon van der Wal helped move the alleged victim.
Thurman said Boyd and Vandenburg also had a discussion, via text messages, about whether the unconscious woman would remember anything about what happened.
Boyd later met with some of the players at a Popeye's restaurant to discuss what had happened.
In an initial interview with police, Boyd "was not completely truthful," Thurman said. But he later offered more information.
First domino to fall
Boyd is the first defendant to fall in a case that has snared four other players, who are banned from the football team and university campus. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to testify in the case against four of his former teammates.
Vanderbilt University spokeswoman Beth Fortune said Boyd will remain suspended from the team pending further review of his status. He remains on academic scholarship and has been attending classes.
Brandon Vandenburg, 20, from Indio, Calif.; Cory Batey, 19, of Nashville; Brandon Eric Banks, 19, from Brandywine, Md.; and Jaborian McKenzie, 18, from Woodville, Miss., are each charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg, who was considered a top college recruit, also is charged with one count of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence.
The arrests came after police say the four raped an unconscious 21-year-old student in Vandenburg's Gillette Hall dormitory room. All four are free on bonds ranging from $50,000 to $350,000 and are expected in court Oct. 16.
McKenzie, who is free on $50,000 bond, transferred and played in a game Saturday at Alcorn State University in Mississippi. He was removed from that team Thursday night by the university president, who said the school had made a mistake in allowing him to play.
His relatively low bond amount and officials at Alcorn have said that he is cooperating with authorities.
Two of Vandenburg's friends in California have also been charged. Miles Finley, 19, of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., and Joseph Quinzio, 20, of Palm Desert, Calif., are charged with tampering with evidence. Both are awaiting extradition in California.
Thurman, speaking to the media after the hearing, also addressed an allegation recently published on an online news site that football coach James Franklin had advised players to delete video evidence.
"There's no evidence whatsoever that Coach Franklin was involved in a cover-up," Thurman said.
Franklin's attorney, Hal Hardin, praised authorities for not only convicting the guilty, but "protecting the innocent."
"One of the most difficult things that any person can go through is to be the victim of rumors, unfounded rumors, and know that you're innocent," Hardin said of Franklin. "Some folks probably owe him an apology for spreading those rumors, but he has weathered it like the true champion he is."
Franklin, contacted Friday morning before the team left for its flight to South Carolina, was asked about Boyd's status on the team.
"I can't talk about anything other than the South Carolina game," he said.
Asked if Carta-Samuels and Dillon Van der Wal would still be playing tomorrow, Franklin replied: "All the statements have been made from the university at this time."
(The Tennessean, Nashville)