News trickled out Tuesday that former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin contacted the victim of an alleged rape that involved four of his players four days after the June 2013 incident occurred. On Wednesday, Nashville Deputy District Attorney Tom Thurman, in an interview with Philly.com, confirmed that Franklin did make contact with the woman, but that it was in an effort to comfort her.
“He did,” Thurman said, in reference to Franklin, who is now the head coach at Penn State. “I think he and his wife called and said they were praying for her and thinking about her. It was probably a pretty nice thing to do and it gets thrown up like this.”
The details of Franklin’s contact with the woman was released when defense attorneys representing one of the players, Brandon Vandenburg, filed court documents that inferred that Franklin did something wrong.
“Obviously, it wasn’t for any purpose of covering up or anything like that,” Thurman said. “It was showing support, which was a nice thing to do. That’s the only contact I know about.”
Franklin released a statement through Penn State Tuesday night which denied any wrongdoing.
“The allegations that I did something wrong are simply not true,” Franklin said. “I have cooperated fully with the authorities in this matter but, out of respect for the legal process, I am not able to comment any further.”
Thurman, who is prosecuting the four former Vanderbilt players, told Philly.com that he thinks the woman worked for Vanderbilt football, which explains how Franklin knew her.
“I think she worked at the (Vanderbilt) football office part-time. I think she was on the dance team. It wasn’t really that relevant to us,” Thurman said.
In addition to Vandenburg, three other former Vanderbilt football players – Cory Batey, Jaborian McKenzie and Brandon Banks -- were charged in August in the incident. Additionally, a fifth, Chris Boyd, pled guilty for attempting to cover up the incident. Franklin dismissed all five players from the program.
Thurman previously told the Philadelphia Inquirer in January that there was no evidence that Franklin “was involved in any way whatsoever in covering it up or anything like that. He’s been up-front with us at all times. There’s no indication of his involvement as far as doing anything improper.”
The Tennessean reported that the court filing from Vandenburg’s attorneys claimed that Franklin had a “private meeting” with the alleged victim, but does not say whether the meeting was before or after the incident.
“Coach Franklin called her in for a private meeting and told her he wanted her to get 15 pretty girls together and form a team to assist with the recruiting even though he knew it was against the rules. He added that all the other colleges did it,” the filing read.
At his Penn State introductory press conference in January, Franklin said he was up front and honest about the situation during the interview process.
“It couldn’t have been a more thorough interview process. We discussed everything. [That was] the most challenging thing I’ve ever been through personally – as a father of two daughters – and professionally. We were honest. We were up front and we made decisions quickly and tried to do everything we possibly could to respect the situation with the utmost class,” Franklin said.
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