Last week, a former high school athlete was exonerated on rape charges after his accuser admitted she had lied about the sexual assault.
In 2003, Wanetta Gibson, then a high school sophomore, accused Brian Banks, a star athlete, of rape. On the advice of his counsel, Banks, then 16, pleaded “no contest” to forcible rape, and served 6 years in jail for the alleged crime. After Banks was released from prison, Gibson, who successfully sued her school district for a $1.5 million settlement in conjunction with the rape charges, “friended” Banks on Facebook and later met with him to confess she had lied about being raped. She offered to help Banks clear his name, although she did not agree to repeat the confession to authorities because she feared having to return the settlement money.
Banks plans to file a claim against the state requesting money for the years he spent in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times. His lawyers say he is entitled to $100 a day for every day he spent behind bars under state law. Banks does not have plans to file a claim against Gibson for making false accusations.
“I know it’s best for me to try and move forward in a positive manner for the betterment of me,” Banks said on the Today show. “It hurts no one but myself to hang on to the type of negative energy.”
Police said there is no official investigation into Gibson’s conduct, but officers are “reviewing the matter” and “will be in consultation with the district attorney’s office following the review.”
I’m not a legal scholar, and I am unclear if Banks will ever see a dime from the state for his wrongful incarceration, especially since he pleaded “no contest” to the charges instead of “not guilty.” And while I appreciate his taking the high road in respect to his accuser, I do think if ever there was a time to get dirty-filthy-grimey on anyone, this is it. Clearly Banks is a better man than most. You accuse me of a crime I didn’t commit and I serve time?! Please believe I’m taking you and your mama for everything, including the kitchen sink.
Rape is a tough enough crime to prosecute, and the climate that is created by false accusations – statistically, false rape allegations account for just 2 to 8 percent of all reported rapes – make it just that much harder for women with valid charges to speak up.
Wanetta Gibson was just a child when she made the false accusations that impacted Banks’ life, but she held on to her lie well into adulthood. She clearly felt guilty about what she’d caused to occur, but even when she confessed, she wouldn’t go the extra step to clear Banks’ name publicly and put herself in jeopardy even after she’d robbed a man of six years of freedom. There’s no way around it – she deserves to pay, financially or with her freedom, for her own crimes.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk