Brian Banks spent six years in prison for a rape that never happened. He took a plea deal that spared him the 41-year sentence he faced, but he maintained his innocence. Today, a judge finally exonerated Banks:
A judge has moved to exonerate a Long Beach high school football star whose professional sports prospects were derailed by a 2003 rape conviction, after his accuser recanted her testimony.
The California Innocence Project said that Brian Banks, a one-time Long Beach Polytechnic High School football star, had been exonerated after a hearing in a Long Beach court room Thursday morning.
Now 26, Banks is out on probation and has had to register as a sex offender. He was still wearing an ankle monitor Thursday outside the courthouse, where he celebrated the judge’s action with family and supporters.
Banks was rising star at Long Beach High School. He had received a scholarship to USC and had NFL potential. That all changed when Wanetta Gibson claimed Banks raped her:
Gibson, who was 15 at the time, told police that the 17-year-old Banks raped her in a secluded area of Long Beach’s Polytechnic High School during summer session.
Though Banks claimed the encounter was consensual, he was charged as an adult with two counts of forcible rape and one count of sodomy by force.
Banks’ fortune changed when Gibson contacted him and admitted she lied and offered to help clear his name. Yet when it came time to repeat that to the prosecutors, Gibson backed out:
But [Gibson] later refused to repeat her statements to prosecutors because she was worried she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against the Long Beach Unified School District.
She told Banks, “I will go through with helping you but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back.”
Now that is greed and apathy for you. Gibson felt so remorseful for what she did that she friended Banks on Facebook, saying she wanted to “let bygones be bygones.”
None of the articles I read offered Banks’ response to that. It smacks of arrogance and conceit to send someone to prison for six years, get a $1.5 million settlement from a school based on a lie, and then have the audacity to say you want to “let bygones be bygones” and refuse to tell prosecutors you lied because you do not want to pay back the money you essentially stole.
I would be surprised if the school does not try to recover the money. At the very least Gibson should have to pay the money back. She admitted no rape happened, and that was the basis for her receiving the $1.5 million. She should also face criminal charges for fraud and false incrimination, but she likely will not.
Setting that aside, what happened to Banks is one of key types of false accusations advocates for the falsely accused worry about. Had Gibson not admitted she lied, nothing would have gotten Banks’ name cleared. To this point, even though he has been exonerated, Banks is still on probation and must register as a sex offender for a crime the state admits never happened.
This man’s life has been ruined, and he is still paying for something he did not do. This is why false accusations are so dangerous. The harm and violation is never undone, and unlike with rape victims, the falsely accused can be forced by the state to pay for something that never happened while their abusers get to walk and keep the money they got based on a lie.