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Woman recants rape claim; man set free

May 26, 2012 at 1:33 PM

LONG BEACH, Calif., May 26 (UPI) -- A former Long Beach, Calif., high school football standout was exonerated after spending several years in prison on a charge of raping a 15-year-old girl.

Wanetta Gibson, then 15 years old, recanted her accusation that Long Beach Poly Tech classmate Brian Banks, then 16, kidnapped and raped her in 2002, paving the way for his exoneration this week, KTLA, Los Angeles, reported Friday.

Banks pleaded no contest, even though he maintained his innocence. Banks spent five years in prison and five years on probation fitted with an electronic monitoring device. He also had to register as a sex offender.

He sought out the California Innocence Project for help, KTLA said.

Gibson later won a $1.5 million settlement in a civil suit against the Long Beach Unified School District, claiming lax security led to the alleged rape.

The situation changed when Gibson friended Banks on Facebook, explaining that she wanted to "let bygones be bygones," KTLA said.

When Banks heard from her, he told reporters, "I stopped what I was doing and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right."

When they met, Gibson told Banks she lied and offered to help clear his name, court documents indicated. However, she said she feared she'd have to return the settlement money if she spoke to prosecutors.

Banks, now 26, said he hasn't considered any legal action against Gibson, the Los Angeles Times said. Prosecutors said they don't plan to charge her for making false accusations, saying it would be a tough to prove their case.

Legal experts told the Times the Long Beach school district and its insurer also would have a difficult time trying to recover the settlement money.

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