Viewers of WSMV-Channel 4 may have seen me interviewed on the evening news last Friday discussing the Vanderbilt Football rape case. The breaking development was that Vandy receiver Chris Boyd pled guilty to attempting to be an “accessory after the fact” in light of evidence that he had helped carry the victim to another room after the attack. Moreover, statements made in court revealed that two additional students, tight end Dillon van der Wal and starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, had also carried the victim away after the attack.
Why, Channel 4 asked me, was Boyd charged and convicted while van der Wal and Carta-Samuels face no charges?
Of course, I have no inside information on the facts of the case, but I told Channel 4 that the answer may be that van der Wal and Carta-Samuels simply did not know the attack occurred when they carried the victim away, which would make them innocent under the law.
Boyd was charged with being an “accessory after the fact.” Under Tennessee law § 39-11-411, an accessory after the fact is a person who has knowledge that a felony has occurred, and assists the principal offender to avoid arrest or conviction. In the Vandy case, text messages and other statements apparently showed that Boyd was well aware that the victim had been raped when he moved the victim and took further actions with the alleged rapists.
By contrast, there is no publicly available evidence that either van der Wal or Carta-Samuels knew that the victim had been raped or that they did anything other than move the victim. One possible scenario is that they were simply told that the victim had passed out from having too much to drink and needed help getting back to her room to recover. In that situation, those two students would not be guilty of being accessories after the fact because they would not have known a felony had occurred and were therefore not acting with the intent to help the other students avoid arrest.
Again, this is all guesswork on my part since I am not privy to the police file. However, it is my best guess to explain the apparent disparity between the charges faced by the students involved in this terrible situation.