Per multiple reports, Wanetta Gibson, the woman who falsely accused linebacker Brian Banks of rape when they were both students at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, has been ordered to repay $2.6 million in damages related to the $1.5 million she received from the Long Beach School District in a 2007 lawsuit, claiming an unsafe environment. Gibson was sued for the money she received, as well as court costs and a possible $1 million in punitive damages. Gibson was not present at the ruling and her whereabouts are unknown, per the Long Beach Press-Telegram, but the court gained authorization to recoup the money through her future wages and property.
It's important to note that Banks receives none of this money. He served five years in prison and another five years on probation as a result of the original verdict, and was only released in 2012 when Banks taped her admitting that the accusation was false.
"The court recognizes that our school district was a victim in this case," school Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser told the Press-Telegram. "This judgment demonstrates that when people attempt to defraud our school system, they will feel the full force of the law."
It is also possible that Gibson could face fraud charges, depending upon the court's opinion as to whether her 2012 recanting constitutes an admission of fraud. If the original accusation is the basis for such a charge, the three-year statute of limitations for fraud charges to be brought would void any such action.
Banks was a high school football star who had received a scholarship offer from USC and had made a verbal commitment to the school. After he was finally freed, he reunited with Pete Carroll, who offered him that scholarship and had moved on to the Seattle Seahawks, for a tryout in June of 2012 at the Seahawks' Virginia Mason Athletic Center. He wasn't quite ready for prime time just yet, but he looked amazingly close for a guy who never played college football and had little time to prepare himself for the challenges of the NFL.
"I don't want nobody to take it easy on me out here," he said. "I know I have a lot of work to do and if that's what's required, then definitely give it to me. I'm ready for it. I've heard of his coaching style. It wasn't until that day of the tryout that I was on the way up here with one of the scouting coaches and he was like, 'I want to let you know, coach Norton — he's no joke.' But you know what? I like that intensity. I like that style of coaching. If it's not right, tell me it's not right. And if it needs fixing, tell me it needs fixing and let's fix it together. We'll get it done. I appreciate it."
Banks didn't make the team, but he got back to work, and made the Atlanta Falcons' roster in April of 2013. When that triumph was announced, Banks recalled some of the feelings he went through while in prison.
"It's almost impossible to explain, the feeling of not having freedom, to be stripped away of your freedom, of your dignity, the respect you once had. To lose it all and watch the world pass you by as you sit inside a prison cell, knowing you shouldn't be there, knowing you're there because of another person's lies, to lose it all and then get it all back, it's a very humbling, spiritual feeling that you just don't want to take anything for granted.
"I've had the opportunity to see both sides of the human spirit. ... My journey has been crazy but my journey has been a learning experience that is unlike any other."
And Banks is a person unlike any other. I've had the opportunity (I should actually call it a privilege) to speak with him on multiple occasions, and I've always been struck by his incredible persistence and generosity of spirit. Somehow, he managed to wade through a decade of defeat unmarked by its seemingly inevitable aftereffects, and he's been an inspiration to everyone who's been around him.
"I feel like what I've been through these past 10 years shows that I have a determination factor of not giving up, of keeping hope in whatever it is that you want to accomplish in life that you can," Banks said last June, when asked what he can offer to teammates in a mental and emotional sense. "And I'm more than willing to be that person on any team that if someone is feeling down one day, or someone is feeling like giving up, or someone is feeling like they can't get to that next step in their life, I'm definitely there to talk to them and be that person of encouragement.
"At the same time, I feel like my situation is no different from anybody else's experiences. I always say, 'It's not what you go through, but how that experience affects you.'"
One can only hope that Wanetta Gibson gets what's coming to her, but is a more lasting and positive sense, it's good to see that Brian Banks has beaten the odds and seems to be getting what he truly deserves. He was unavailable for comment regarding the Gibson ruling, because he was too busy getting ready for training camp.