What happened to Brian Banks was a real-life nightmare: at the age of 16, he was falsely accused of rape by a classmate, and rather than go on to pursue a career in the NFL, as he was on track to do, he instead spent nearly six years behind bars and another five years on probation for a crime he didn’t commit.
With the help of the California Innocence Project, Banks won back his freedom and was exonerated in 2012. But despite having had to wear a GPS tracking device and register as a sex offender, all because of a lie, Banks never pursued legal action against his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, who was 15 when she made the claims against him. Her family took home a settlement of more than $1 million after suing the school system over the alleged rape.
The movie "Brian Banks," starring Aldis Hodge, Brian Kinnear and Sherri Shepherd, is now in theaters.
While Banks may not have ever taken Gibson to court, he said during an interview with The Grio in 2017 that he “absolutely” would have pressed charges against her if it were possible.
“The statute of limitations was expired for perjury. I would have absolutely pressed charges against her if I could,” he said, before going on to explain that doing as much wouldn’t have been just for his own benefit, but would also be a move to support survivors of sexual assault.
“Part of my life was taken away because of her. But more importantly, you have to go after people like this because a person such as herself makes it harder for a woman who is raped to come forward confidently and share their story and hope something is done about what happened to them,” he explained. “They should be able to expect to be believed.”
“For all the men and women who have been assaulted and for all the men and women who have been wrongfully convicted for these kinds of crimes, these people who make false claims need to be prosecuted,” he continued.
Gibson’s accusation was one that would rock Banks’ life. She claimed that he raped her in a hallway at Long Beach Polytechnic High in Southern California, where they were both attending summer school, according to the New York Daily News. But Banks claimed that on July 8, 2002, he’d stepped out to take a phone call when he ran into Gibson. The two then went to a secluded spot on campus and “made out,” but he said the two did not have sex.
He was arrested that day and ultimately charged with rape and kidnapping, charges that landed him behind bars after his legal representation advised him that a plea deal would allow him to go home. Meanwhile, Gibson and her mother filed a lawsuit against the school system and were awarded $1.5 million, according to the Daily News.
Banks didn't hear from Gibson again until 2011, when she sent him a friend request on Facebook, ABC News reported. In talking to Gibson, Banks was able to get her to admit on camera to falsely accusing him, and even though she refused to tell the truth to prosecutors — because she didn’t want to pay back the money, she said — the video, in the hands of the California Innocence Project, was enough to put Banks on the road to successfully clearing his name. He was exonerated in 2012, and a judge ordered Gibson to pay back the settlement money, as well as an addition $1.1 million in fees, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Prior to his 2017 interview with The Grio, Banks suggested that he wasn’t interested in taking legal action against Gibson, CNN reported at the time.
“For me, I just want to be positive,” he said. “I want to be in a better position than what I was yesterday. The only way that can happen is by eliminating any negative ill will or feelings toward anyone.”
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