Long Beach Unified wins judgment against accuser in false rape case against Brian Banks
By Greg Mellen
LOS ANGELES – The Long Beach Unified School District won a $2.6 million default judgment against a woman whose false rape allegation in 2002 cost the school district money and landed a fellow student in jail.
Although Wanetta Gibson has not appeared in court throughout the proceedings and her whereabouts were not know, the ruling allows the school district to recoup the money through her future wages and property.
Gibson was a student at Long Beach Poly High when she first sued the district for having lax security and an unsafe environment after she accused Brian Banks, a promising football star, of rape.
Gibson later recanted the rape claim on tape, paving the way for Banks’ exoneration of the charge – however, he had already served more than five years in prison.
Banks earlier this year signed a contract to play football for the Atlanta Falcons. He was unavailable for comment.
According to the school district, the judgment recoups a $750,000 settlement paid to Gibson and also includes attorney’s fees, interest and $1 million in punitive damages.
“The court recognizes that our school district was a victim in this case,” Long Beach Unified Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser said.
“This judgment demonstrates that when people attempt to defraud our school system, they will feel the full force of the law.”
When the school district first announced it was suing Gibson, district spokesman Chris
Eftychiou said “It is important to convey that the school board isn’t going to sit idly by if someone tries to defraud it of taxpayer resources.”
Lawyers from the school district were unable to locate Gibson, who in 2007 was awarded the settlement.
The Press-Telegram reported initially that Gibson received $750,000 from a $1.5 million overall settlement.
When Banks was exonerated in May 2012, the school district refused comment on whether it would pursue Gibson for damages.
The district has since filed a complaint in Long Beach Superior Court and a summons against Gibson.
In January, when Gibson could not be found, an order for publication was granted, meaning Gibson could be served via a public announcement.
Legal experts debated whether a judgment would be won from Gibson if she had adequate representation.
The statute for limitations on fraud is three years from when it is discovered; it is unclear whether the clock should begin when Gibson recanted on tape, or whether it could have been discovered earlier with reasonable diligence.
Gibson was also a juvenile when she first accused Banks, but not when she received the award.
Court records show Gibson has had a tumultuous life since she won the settlement, with a number of claims lodged by and against her in civil litigation, including temporary restraining orders and domestic violence charges.
According to news reports, Gibson and her children have received public assistance and she has been sued by the county for child support.
After Banks’ release from prison, Gibson sent him a “friend” request on Facebook and was seeking to “let bygones be bygones.”
Private investigator Freddie Parish, whose son played football with Banks at Poly, was able to elicit the recantation on audio and videotape from Gibson, who was unavailable for comment.
In the tape, which has been widely circulated since Banks was exonerated in May 2012, Gibson gives one-word “no” answers when Parish asks her if she was raped or kidnapped. In a separate interview, Gibson said she was hesitant to help Banks when he asked for her help.
“I will go through with helping you, but all that money they gave us, I mean, gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back, all of it, because that would take a long time,” Gibson said.
Source: Press Telegram