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Long Beach Unified wins $2.6 million over false rape accusation

Long Beach Unified wins $2.6 million over false rape accusation
Former Long Beach high school football star Brian Banks, right, jokes with his father, Jonathan, center, outside the Long Beach courthouse after his exoneration last year.
(Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

The Long Beach Unified School District has won a $2.6-million judgment in its lawsuit against a former student who falsely accused classmate and football player Brian Banks of rape, officials said.

“The court recognizes that our school district was a victim in this case,” district Supt. Christopher J. Steinhauser said in a statement last week. “This judgment demonstrates that when people attempt to defraud our school system, they will feel the full force of the law.”

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The Los Angeles County Superior Court judgment handed down Monday includes the $750,000 settlement that the district had originally paid to Wanetta Gibson, as well as interest, attorney fees and $1 million in punitive damages.

Gibson was 15 when she accused Banks, then 17 and a promising football star at Polytechnic High School, who spent five years in prison before Gibson recanted.

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After being exonerated last year, Banks, now 27, is finally getting his crack at an NFL career. He was signed by the Atlanta Falcons.

At the time of the accusation, Banks was a linebacker drawing attention from USC, UCLA and other schools, even though he had just completed his junior year of high school.

Banks insisted that his sexual contact with his classmate in a school building was consensual, but his lawyer advised him to plead no contest rather than risk being sentenced to 41 years to life in prison in a he-said-she-said trial. Banks did as advised and spent five years in prison and another five on parole.

Then, in 2011, his accuser reached out to him on Facebook. In a conversation that was taped by Banks and a private investigator, Gibson admitted she had lied about the alleged rape. The tape interested the California Innocence Project, whose investigators found other evidence to back up Banks’ claims. He was ultimately exonerated in May 2012.

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jean.merl@latimes.com


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