The woman whose false rape accusation sent NFL player Brian Banks to prison for five years has been ordered to pay a $2.6 million judgment.
Wanetta Gibson accused Banks in 2002 when the two attended Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High, where Banks was a star prep prospect. Banks was convicted of rape, lost his USC scholarship and landed in jail, and Gibson sued the Long Beach Unified School District for being unsafe and won a $1.5 million judgment.
Gibson later confessed that she lied and Banks was released in 2012. Gibson must repay a $750,000 settlement to the LBUSD plus attorney fees, interest and more than $1 million in punitive damages.
Banks, 27, got several NFL tryouts last year and played in the UFL before he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in April.
Lawyers were unable to locate Gibson, who has a history of civil litigation claims by and against her, including temporary restraining orders and domestic abuse charges. It’s reported she also is being sued by the county for child support after receiving public assistance. The ruling allows the school district to get the money through her future wages and property.
”I felt at the time in order for me to exit prison with a sane mind and be able to just function as a person I had to let go of certain dreams and goals I once held in life, football being one of them,” Banks said in April.
Banks said he ”couldn’t have asked for a better place to be” than with the Falcons.
”I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. ”It’s surreal.”
Banks was a 16-year-old junior and had made a verbal commitment to sign with Southern Cal when Gibson accused him of rape. She recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name after he was out of prison. That helped lead to the conviction being overturned by a California court and Banks’ record was cleared on May 12, 2012.
Banks said he read every book he could find while in prison and also learned to value every opportunity.
”It’s almost impossible to explain, the feeling of not having freedom, to be stripped away of your freedom, of your dignity, the respect you once had,” he said. ”To lose it all and watch the world pass you by as you sit inside a prison cell, knowing you shouldn’t be there, knowing you’re there because of another person’s lies, to lose it all and then get it all back, it’s a very humbling, spiritual feeling that you just don’t want to take anything for granted.
”I’ve had the opportunity to see both sides of the human spirit. … My journey has been crazy but my journey has been a learning experience that is unlike any other.”
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Banks will be given an opportunity to win a spot on the Falcons at inside linebacker.
”I don’t expect any handouts or any favoritism," he said. "I’m here to work like everybody else and the result of my hard work will be whatever they deem necessary.
”All I can do is my best and however the turnout will be, I thank God for the opportunity.”
The Falcons are the first NFL team to sign Banks, but he has had chances with other teams. He took part in the Seattle Seahawks’ minicamp last June following workouts with Kansas City and San Diego. He had one tackle in two games with Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (UFL).
Banks also worked out for the Falcons before the 2012 season.
”We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement released by the team. ”He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL and we look forward to seeing him on the field.”
Banks has become a spokesman for the California Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused.
He said he is working with producer James Moll on a documentary about his story and that publishing companies are interested in a book. He told his story to CBS last year in the video below:
See footage from Banks’ tryout with the Seahawks last year: