New attorneys for one of four ex-Vanderbilt football players charged with rape say their client "absolutely innocent" and the evidence against him is "exaggerated to completely oversold."
The explosive comments came after a tension-filled hearing Tuesday on a series of motions filed by both the prosecution and defense in the case against 20-year-old Brandon Vandenburg.
Longtime Middle Tennessee criminal defense attorneys Fletcher Long and John Herbison told Judge Monte Watkins they will be the new counsel for Vandenburg after David King and Nathan Colburn filed a motion to withdraw earlier this month.
Herbison said the two would soon file officially with the court to represent Vandenburg, but both attorneys outside the court had strong words against the prosecution and the evidence that is said to include a video tape where Vandenburg and three other then-teammates raped a woman identified as a Vanderbilt female student.
"I believe that Mr. Vandenburg is absolutely innocent, and I believe that the tapes and their contents have been - from exaggerated to completely oversold," Long told reporters after the hearing. "I believe that when the truth comes out, people who rushed to judgment in this particular case are going to have regret."
When told of the comments, Deputy District Attorney General and prosecutor Tom Thurman said, "I have had no comment on the video myself, so I don't know what they call an exaggeration. I will have no comment on the video because it is unethical for lawyers to discuss evidence prior to trial, so I will not discuss evidence like some others might."
Thurman last Friday asked the court to remove one of the California attorneys from Vandenburg's home state who is part of his defense team.
A motion filed by Thurman and two other members of the DA's office said, "Two witnesses… provided statements that Albert Perez, Jr. was directly involved with the destruction or attempted destruction of evidence in this case."
In an affidavit from Thurman, the witnesses were identified as Miles Finley and Joseph Quinzio, who have been charged with evidence tampering in the Vanderbilt case.
The prosecutor said in the affidavit that both have recorded what is called a proffer as to what they would testify at trial. Quinzio and Finley have been identified as California friends of Vandenburg.
Perez was in the courtroom Tuesday with Vandenburg. Afterward, he spoke harshly of the two Californians but not exactly about his relationship to them.
"I don't know why those boys would say something like that, they're criminals," Perez said when asked about Finley and Quinzio. "Why they said something like that to get out of an indictment, to have a proffer which dismisses the case against them, maybe that is the reason, I don't know."
When prosecutor Thurman was asked if there might be charges against Perez, he replied, "That's still an active investigation, so I can't really comment on it."
As for Vandenburg, he said nothing in or out of the courtroom except, "privacy in the elevator" as the doors opened at the 6th floor stop.
The next step in the case will be likely further filings concerning Tuesday's motions, but no date has yet been set.
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