A case involving two Vanderbilt students convicted of raping a young woman in a dorm room in 2013 has gripped the national news for the last 19 months. On January 27, 2015, a jury found the defendants, Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, guilty of all charges filed against them. The judge has set the sentencing date for March 6, 2015.

In Tennessee, a sentence – or punishment for a criminal conviction – is set by the judge of that particular case. The only time a judge does not give a sentence is when the prosecutor is seeking life in prison without parole or the death penalty. In the Vanderbilt case, the judge will decide what the punishments are for each young man. After the sentence is decided, Batey and Vandenburg’s lawyer may begin the appeals process.

How is sentencing decided?

Each criminal charge has a minimum and a maximum amount of years to be served. Aggravated Rape, a Class A felony, has a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison. Because it is a “100% crime,” anyone sentenced must serve at least 15 years of that sentence. That particular sentence requires the minimum service of 85% of the sentence prior to the possibility of being released on parole. Parole is not often granted in violent sexual offenses. Both Batey and Vandenburg were found guilty on four separate charges of aggravated rape, meaning both men must serve at least 15 years for each crime. If the judge chooses to run the sentences consecutively, or back-to-back, then the defendants will be in prison for at least 60 years on those four charges alone, though they could be sentenced to 240 years in total for those four charges. If the judge decides to run the sentences concurrently, meaning all four charges are run together, then Batey and Vandenburg will be in prison for at least 15 years total on those four charges.

Upon release, both would be on community supervision for life and be required to be on the sex offender registry.

Mitigating factors

Neither Batey nor Vandenburg has any history of felony charges, which could influence the judge’s decision in how many years he assigns for each crime, and whether or not to run the charges consecutively or concurrently.

It is most likely that the judge will run the sentence concurrently, though there is no guarantee of that decision. Regardless of the outcome on March 6th, it is almost guaranteed that the men’s lawyers’ will begin the appeals process after sentencing is handed down.

If you have questions about how sentencing is handled in Tennessee, or are in need of a criminal defense attorney to help you appeal any convictions you may be facing, please contact Jeff Cherry at Lowery, Lowery & Cherry, PLLC to find out more.