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The woman who falsely accused football star Brian Banks of r@ping her is being forced to pay big time. A judge has ordered that the woman pay $2.6 million to Banks for ruining his life with false allegations. The lies caused him to lose numerous scholarship offers to college and also led to a prison sentence of over five years.
Wanetta Gibson told lies to authorities when she accused Banks of assaulting her when the two attended Long Beach Poly High, where Banks was both a student and football star. After the conviction, the girl sued the school district and received $1.5 million. The conviction was overturned when Gibson was secretly recorded admitting that she made the whole thing up.
Years later, Gibson confessed and Banks was released. The woman is being forced to repay a $750,000 settlement to the school, plus attorneys fees, interest and another $1 million in punitive damages.
As a 16-year old junior, Banks had verbally committed to USC before his career was thrown off track. During his time in prison, Banks said that he read every book he could get his hands on.
”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,” he said. ”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.
Stories like this one, along with the story about two dozen men being released due to faulty bite mark evidence, reiterates the urgency of attacking the mass incarceration problem that exists in America. For every case that is found to have been due to a false conviction, there are literally hundreds of others that will never see the light of day.
African Americans should be especially offended by this crisis because our families and communities are destroyed when otherwise productive men and women are turned into hardened criminals by being forced to survive in conditions that amount to modern day slavery. Prisons are places where mental illness is created where it did not previously exist, disease is spread that ends up infecting the rest of us, and families are obliterated by a system that is all-too determined to create a generation of lost children. In most cases, money is the dividing line between receiving justice and being sent away for life. It is too much to bear.
So, for those who are unable to see the relevance of Jesse Jackson, Ron Daniels and others heading to the White House to protest the mass incarceration epidemic, I hope you will take a second to realize how this problem affects all of us. As long as innocent and non-violent mothers and fathers are being sent away to prison camps in droves, our streets will not be safer, our families will continue to fall apart, and our collective future remains in jeopardy.
This holocaust must be stopped.
As for Mr. Banks, I consider this victory to be bitter sweet. He’ll probably never be able to fully collect from the woman who destroyed a piece of his life that can never be replaced. He could have been any of our sons, brothers, or uncles, and many of us have a Brian Banks in our own family. His accuser should be in prison for what she did to him, there is no question about that.
The only way we can save our sons from being the next Brian Banks is by directly confronting the system that built a prison cell for Brian on the day he was born. A more thorough investigation could have saved Brian’s life, along with so many others, but the justice system is built on plea bargains with the threat of unimaginably long prison sentences for those seeking a fair trial.
The capitalist beast of mass incarceration doesn’t care if you’re innocent or guilty; it is an economic monster with no soul, conscience or respect for civil liberties. It only wants more warm bodies to feed an insatiable appetite for profitability that sustains itself on the spiritual and socioeconomic deaths of our sons and daughters.
We must confront the New Jim Crow.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” He and Russell Simmons are also the co-authors of the open letter to President Obama on mass incarceration, signed by 175 celebrities, scholars, activists and public figures. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.