A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.
Brian Banks, now 26, pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.
In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.
In an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.
But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.
During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, 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,” according to a defense investigator who was at the meeting.
It was uncertain Thursday whether Gibson will have to return the money.
Prosecutors also said they didn’t immediately know if she might be prosecuted for making the false accusation when she was 15.
- This is a tragedy. To ruin a young man’s life, to ruin a football career, to hurt his whole family. Yes, there are crimes of rape that do happen, but this is also rape to the individual that is accused falsely and charged falsely and wrongly convicted. It is rape to their mental and emotional health. It is rape to their soul.
- Just because someone is accused, it does not mean that it actually happened. Montana is convicting on “hearsay” and on “accusations.” We have much documentation that proves that. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?
- We need to keep this in mind as these large numbers are being reported of sexual assaults that are coming out of Missoula and Billings Montana.
- We already have many that have been convicted in Montana and are sitting in prisons over “hearsay” and “accusations.”