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Vanderbilt footballer pleads guilty to lesser charge in rape case

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A suspended Vanderbilt University football player on Friday pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in a case involving four of his former teammates who are accused of raping an unconscious female student earlier this year.

The four players have been charged with aggravated rape and battery of the unnamed 21-year-old student in a university dormitory on June 23.

Fellow player Chris Boyd, 21, had faced up to two years in prison on a felony charge of allegedly helping to cover up the crime, but was placed on probation for a year in exchange for his testimony against his former teammates.

"(We) try to do justice and do what we think is fair ... as long as he's now cooperating with authorities fully and will testify in the more serious case," Davidson County District Attorney General Tom Thurman said.

The four accused - Brandon Vandenburg, 20, Corey Batey, 19, Brandon Banks, 19, and Jaborian McKenzie, 19, - have been removed from the team and banned from the Nashville university's campus.

Vandenburg, in whose dormitory room the rapes are alleged to have occurred, has also been charged with tampering with evidence and unlawful photography.

Two of Vandenburg's friends have been charged with tampering with electronic evidence. They await extradition from another state.

Boyd's record will be expunged if he stays out of trouble, Susan Niland, spokesperson for the prosecutor's office said.

The plea deal to the misdemeanor charge also allows Boyd to stay in school.

According to the Sports Xchange, Vanderbilt issued a statement Friday that Boyd, a wide receiver, "will remain suspended from the Vanderbilt University football team, pending further review by the university."

(Editing by Brendan O'Brien, Tim Gaynor and Eric Walsh)

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