A woman, who in 2002 falsely accused fellow Poly High School student and now pro football player Brian Banks of rape, has been ordered to pay the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) more than $2.6 million.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court judgment in favor of the school district filed on May 21 orders Wanetta Gibson, whose false accusation put Banks in prison for five years before he was later exonerated, to return $750,000 she received from LBUSD in a settlement. The judgment also orders Gibson to pay attorney fees, interest and $1 million in punitive damages.
“The court recognizes that our school district was a victim in this case,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser in a statement released June 14. “This judgment demonstrates that when people attempt to defraud our school system, they will feel the full force of the law.”
Gibson, who was 15 when she made her accusation, filed a lawsuit against the LBUSD, claiming that inadequate school security had allowed for the alleged rape to occur. Banks, who was 17 and a rising football star, served five years and two months in prison and was convicted after making a plea deal at the advice of his then attorney.
Gibson, however, has since requested to be Banks’s friend on Facebook. She was then secretly recorded on video recanting her rape claim, which led to Banks’s exoneration in May 2012. When asked whether or not she had been raped, Gibson was recorded as saying “no, he did not rape me,” adding that she didn’t want to pay the money back.
Banks’s exoneration then enabled the LBUSD to file suit against Gibson for damages.
Dana McCune, LBUSD’s attorney, told the Signal Tribune in a phone interview that criminal charges against Gibson for making the false accusations against both the LBUSD and Banks would be up to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and Long Beach prosecutors to pursue.
“The answer is this– yes, it can be criminally prosecuted, but it’s entirely in the discretion of the district attorney’s office,” McCune said. “We have made our entire file available and accessible to them, but we have not yet received word that they will in fact proceed with criminal prosecution. We believe that this woman should be penalized to the fullest extent [of] the law. We would love it to be pursued, but it’s their call.”
Though Gibson’s whereabouts are unknown and she has not been present in any court hearings during LBUSD’s case against her, the ruling allows LBUSD to recoup the judgment amount from her future wages and property.
Still, it remains unclear exactly how the money will be recovered. Several news reports claim that neighbors of Gibson have said she and her mother went on a spending spree with the settlement money, buying expensive cars and big-screen TVs, adding that many items have since been repossessed.
McCune said it’s “presently unknown if the district will recover on the judgment,” but he added that the court order is valid for 10 years and renewable for another 10 years. “In the meantime, this egregious and fraudulent behavior against Mr. Banks and the district should be made clear,” he said.
Banks, 27, has since told news organizations that he wants to focus on his professional football career. He was signed to the Atlanta Falcons in April and is training as a linebacker for the upcoming NFL season.
Banks is now a spokesperson for the California Innocence Project, a law-school clinical program at California Western School of Law dedicated to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates.