Monday, June 17, 2013
Brian Banks is not the only victim of Wanetta Gibson's lie
Wanetta Gibson told a lie that cost Brian Banks the chance to play football at the University of Southern California. That lie landed Banks in prison and helped Gibson garner a $750,000 settlement.
Gibson has been ordered to pay the Long Beach Unified School District $2.6 million for telling that lie. Banks is still fighting to resurrect his promising football career.
It happened in 2002. Gibson was 15 when she claimed Banks raped her. Banks was a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. He had just made a verbal commitment to receive a full scholarship to attend USC. Gibson’s lie led to Banks serving five years in prison and five years on parole where he was forced to register as a sex offender.
Banks accepted a plea bargain after facing a possible 41 years to life in prison. Gibson and her mother Wanda Rhodes sued the Long Beach Unified School District claiming the school was not a safe environment. They were awarded a $1.5 million settlement.
It was a profitable lie.
Wanetta Gibson contacted Banks in 2011 on Facebook. The two met, and she admitted to fabricating the story of being raped. Banks secretly recorded Gibson’s confession. The taped confession led Los Angeles County prosecutors to overturn the charges against Banks.
The lie was uncovered. Gibson was ordered to repay the $750,000 settlement she received, attorneys’ fees, interest and $1 million in punitive damages to the school district. The district will receive money from Gibson’s future wages and property.
"The court recognizes that our school district was a victim in this case," Long Beach Unified Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser said. "This judgment demonstrates that when people attempt to defraud our school system, they will feel the full force of the law."
Who’s the real victim?
The school district is able to recoup the money lost. Meanwhile, Banks, now 27, has been offered a chance to compete for a spot on the Atlanta Falcons roster. There’s no guarantee he’ll make the team. Lost was the chance for a college education and university experience. Lost is the benefit of sound coaching to boast his playing resume. Lost are years of learning and growing outside the confines of the brick walls and bars of the prison.
What payment is there for Brian Banks beyond the promise to prove he still has what it takes to play football?
Banks has the potential to earn enough money to shed the pain associated with all those lost years. No pro contract will be enough to make this right. A lie destroyed what could have and should have been.
It’s sad what has happened to Banks, but he’s not the only causality if Gibson’s lie.
Lost in the mix are the victims of rape who remain silent because of the presumption that they too are liars. Lost in the conversation related to Gibson’s gross negation of Banks humanity is how her action impacts the voices of real victims.
Her lie will be used as yet another example of how women lie about being raped. She will be added to the list of others who are assumed to have lied to receive attention. Add Gibson to the list headed by Twana Brawley and Crystal Mangum.
Gibson’s deception may lead to dialogue concerning punishment of those who fabricate being raped. Currently, there are no formal negative consequences for those who file a false report. The accusers never have to fully admit that the report was a lie. It is rare that legal actions are brought against the accuser. When done, in most places, the charge is only a misdemeanor.
There is considerable support for establishing guidelines to define a “false rape accusation” and the criteria for proof of prior acts. Many want to make the filing of a false report of rape a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, and to institute the possibility of a “not guilty and not credible” verdict as a warning to those who file a false complaint.
Efforts to institutionalize a policy against those who cry rape will make it harder for victims of rape to come forward. Any law to punish the few who lie will strike fear among those who have been raped. Not only will those charged of rape be forced to prove innocence; those who claim being raped will be forced to sustain the credibility of the charge. Failure to establish the claim could lead to time served for failing to tell the truth.
Banks has suffered a lot due to Gibson’s lie. It’s shameful what has happened to Banks. Gibson’s lie has harmed Banks, but it has also hindered the countless women who are raped each day in America.
Beyond the innocence of those charged with rape is the question of the merit of those who are raped but assumed guilty of telling a lie
This lie has hurt more than one man.