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Vanderbilt Football Players Dismissed Due to Sex Crime Accusations

Sexual assault is a crime that tends to provoke community outrage.  Even just the accusation that someone committed sexual assault can haunt a person and ruin their reputation.  Remember the case of the Duke Lacrosse players who were accused of rape and had their entire lives turned upside down.  There is a new situation under investigation at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

The Timeline

Vanderbilt University police were contacted on June 23 about an alleged sexual assault in a university dormitory.  On June 26, university police contacted the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department about the incident.  The police collected evidence and interviewed a number of people at the dormitory.  Evidence was sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing.

On June 28, Vanderbilt announced that it dismissed four members of its football team because they had been suspended for violating team rules.  These students were also suspended from the university and not allowed back on the campus during an investigation and possible hearing.  The University acknowledged that the dismissals were related to the police investigation.

The Metro police issued a press release on July 1 that they were investigating an alleged sexual assault at the university.  A second press release was released July 15 that the investigation was still ongoing.

Originally the players’ names were not released, but with upcoming release of the Vanderbilt 2013 football roster, the names of the players would be missing and therefore easily identifiable.  Two of the four players have retained attorneys at this time.

Neither police nor the university has indicated what the players’ connection is to the sex crimes investigation and no arrests have been made.  The university said that the players were dropped only for violating team rules related to the June investigation.

Florida Law

Florida law defines sexual battery as penetration of one person by another without consent.  Fla. Stat. s. 794.011(1)(h).  And further notes consent must be voluntary and if the victim doesn’t fight back, that is not consent.  Sexual assault is classified as a felony.  The term of imprisonment is dependent on the victim’s age and the violence of the attack.

Another important point about this law is that public employees cannot disclose a victim’s identity.  And reporters cannot “print, publish, or broadcast, or cause to be printed, published, or broadcast, in any instrument of mass communications” any identifying information related to a victim.  Fla. Stat. s. 794.03.  But there is no law against disclosing the names of people suspected of a sexual assault.

In the Vanderbilt case, there are no formal charges at this time.  The four former football players are under suspicion.  With the Duke case, the allegations were proven false and the accuser was charged with a crime.  Under Florida law, a person who falsely accuses another of sexual battery can be charged with a felony for lying.  Fla. Stat. s. 794.011(10).

If you have been accused of a sexual assault, make sure you have a strong advocate on your side.  Contact our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys to help you with your criminal matter.