Reluctant to recant rape accusation

by Walter Olson on May 25, 2012

Brian Banks served more than five years in prison after an old 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….

It was uncertain Thursday whether Gibson will have to return the money.

[AP via Balko, Volokh; & welcome Reddit readers]

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, high-profile Brooklyn sex crimes prosecutor Lauren Hersh has resigned following a furor over a sex trafficking case in which “prosecutors had held on to documents showing the victim recanted rape allegations one day after making them.” [NY Post, more] P.S. Daniel Fisher reminds us of Hersh’s “starring role in New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s expose of Backpage, the Village Voice’s online personals section.”

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06.08.12 at 12:30 am

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1 Nicholas 05.25.12 at 10:51 am

If all that is true, there is no doubt she belongs in prison for a minimum of five years — longer, in my opinion.

2 smart dude 05.25.12 at 1:40 pm

The prisons have far too many of these innocent men, many of them of minority backgrounds.

Fake/erroneous testimony, prosecutorial misconduct, and coerced confessions are common.

This is why I cannot support the death penalty.

3 captnhal 05.25.12 at 2:38 pm

“It was uncertain Thursday whether Gibson will have to return the money.”

And the uncertainty is based on what? It seems very clear to me what should happen to the money, and with interest and penalty. If she can’t pay then too bad. What she did deserves is to make restitution and serve time. She caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, most significantly the falsely accused. What should happen to her is deserved and minor compared to the problems of the accused.

4 kimsch 05.25.12 at 3:07 pm

His lawyer convinced him to plead “no contest” to the charges. Something to happen to him too.

She should definitely pay Long Beach Schools back, serve time herself, and somehow have to compensate him for his imprisonment.

5 Hugo S. Cunningham 05.25.12 at 3:36 pm

@captnhal

I hear you. If the collapse of her accusation was forced by the detective work of others, I would agree with you– the false accuser should suffer at least the penalty of his/her victim.

But I would not want to deter a spontaneous recantation that is a victim’s only hope for freedom and justice. Let her keep the money, as compensation for malpractice by an overzealous DA department. Let the school district be reimbursed by the DA’s office and their retirement fund.

6 leafs004 05.25.12 at 5:42 pm

Fortunately the private investigator was smart enough to secretly record her. She allegedly has a moral flexibility that allows her to change her story if it appears something bad might happen to her (or her money). When reporters contacted about her secretly recorded statements, she claimed he bribed her with 10k to say he was innocent.

A long prison stay is a great start for this woman.

7 ras 05.25.12 at 8:33 pm

Getting this particular woman off the streets for a while, before she can harm others as she harmed the first man, would be a good thing, over and above the deterrent effect. Her sentence should be at least as long as that served by her victim and then some. Might I presume that court workers will be instructed never to be alone with her?

8 captnhal 05.26.12 at 3:44 am

“Let her keep the money, as compensation for malpractice by an overzealous DA department.”

She should in no way be permitted to keep the money. The DAs were “overzealous” because of her false accusations. There’s something wrong if the system allows her to keep her unjust enrichment while those that believe her lies, or are part of the office that does, pay the penalty. The school district (and their insurance company) lost out big time and the falsely accused lost 5 years of his life that he’ll never get back. Try getting a job in these times with a 5 year gap on your resume and try to get someone to believe that it was based on a false accusation. There will understandably but incorrectly be those that will doubt the innocence of the accused.

My intent would not be to deter the recantation. It would be to deter anyone from making false charges in the first place. To allow her to keep her ill gotten gains sends the wrong message.

If the school district now sues her, I think they have a strong case for compensation plus reimbusement of legal fees.

9 John Rohan 05.26.12 at 7:52 am

Hugo S. Cunningham wrote: “Let her keep the money, as compensation for malpractice by an overzealous DA department.”

Are you kidding? So she should be allowed to substantially profit from the crime of perjury and making a false accusation?

10 Marty Murphy 05.26.12 at 5:33 pm

I think many of you missed an important point: the ‘victim’ did not get the $1.5 million settlement from the school, her MOTHER got the settlement. The victim may or my not have received any or all of the money herself.

We need more information to understand the sequence of events that brought about this terrible miscarriage of justice.

And, yes, all should be punished.

11 Melvin H. 05.27.12 at 12:57 am

Most of the comments that mention the victim–who was underage; her mother had to file the suit–say that the victim/liar should be going to jail (or at least prosecuted for fraud or lying under oath) and/or sending the money back to the school district (third-party deep pocket).

Why shouldn’t the MOTHER who filed the lawsuit be hauled into court herself–charged with fraud, lying under oath, and accessory to both?

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