Sexual assault is a heinous crime, and victims of sexual assault often endure all manner of humiliation beyond the assault itself: public shaming, private disdain, invasion of privacy by criminal investigators, and a slew of embarrassing medical exams.

That makes it especially disgusting when the “victim” is a “fraud.”

UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh writes, over at the Volokh Conspiracy (link may not work on government computers, for no good reason), about a Los Angeles Times article about the reversal of  “the 2002 rape and kidnapping conviction of former Long Beach Poly football standout Brian Banks.”

Banks, now 26, was wrongly convicted of the charges based on the testimony of Wanetta Gibson, an acquaintance.

Gibson testified that Banks raped her on the Poly campus. Banks said the encounter was consensual.

Rather than face a prison term of from 41 years to life, Banks accepted a plea deal that destroyed his dream of playing college football. At Poly, he had been a star at linebacker.

Gibson sued the Long Beach Unified School District, claiming the Poly campus was not a safe environment, and won a $1.5-million settlement.

Nearly a decade later, Gibson contacted Banks on Facebook, met with him and admitted that she had fabricated the story.

Banks spent more than five years in prison, was required to register as a sex offender and was still on probation wearing an electronic monitoring device.

The AP has more details:

He maintained there was no rape and their sexual contact was consensual, but his lawyer urged him to plead no contest rather than risk a sentence of 41 years to life in prison if convicted. He followed the advice and went to prison for six years, shattering his dreams of gridiron glory.

In a strange turn of events, the woman who accused him a decade ago friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison. Wanetta Gibson explained she wanted to “let bygones be bygones.”

According to documents in the case, she met with Banks and said she had lied; there had been was no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record.

But she subsequently refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil

suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.

She was quoted as telling Banks: “I will go through with helping you but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back.”

Professor Volokh adds some insightful commentary:

This, by the way, raises again a difficult problem with he-said-she-said rape cases, where civil liability is available. I suspect that in a typical such case, one factor that cuts in the prosecution’s favor is “Why would she lie?” A defendant has ample reason to lie by saying that nonconsensual sex was actually consensual — his liberty is at stake. But a complainant in many cases has much less reason to lie by saying that consensual sex was actually nonconsensual; sure, in some situations there might be possible motivations for lying, but they are usually not nearly as strong as the defendant’s motivation.

Yet when the complainant can get millions of dollars in damages, either from a rich defendant on an intentional tort theory, or from some other entity — such as an employer or a school district — that could be held liable on a negligence theory, the complainant now has lots of reason to lie. Of course, this by no means that such a complainant will be lying, just as the defendant’s incentive to lie doesn’t mean that all defendants who testify that they’re innocent are lying. But it does, I think, make the defense’s case stronger and the prosecution’s case weaker.

The jurors don’t know for sure who’s telling the truth. But once they know that the complainant has a potential motive to lie, they’ll be less inclined to believe her — and at least to conclude that there’s a reasonable doubt about whether she’s telling the truth. If you were a juror and the evidence against the defendant besides the complainant’s testimony was weak, wouldn’t you be influenced by evidence that the complainant has a possible financial motive for making up the charges?

Of course, a lawsuit for compensation for (alleged) sexual assault victims could never happen in the military

9 Responses to “Why would anyone lie about being a victim of sexual assault?”

  1. Dew_Process says:

    The mystifying thing to me is not the totally false allegation of rape and the wrongful imprisonment of a young man, but the fact that there does not appear to be any legal consequences for the false complaint.  Yes, maybe whatever’s left of the money will be “refunded,” but what about the false reporting, the false official statements if not outright perjury?

  2. stewie says:

    People assume that the alleged victim knows what’s coming. That isn’t necessarily true. She may lie thinking it will be a small lie, to one other person. That lie then quickly mushrooms, and she’s stuck on a bullet train headed towards a trial.

  3. Capt N.S. Stewart, USMC says:

    Maybe the climate was different ten years ago when I was less wise and didn’t pay attention to such irrelevancies as false rape claims, but if it were like today, then anyone above a single-cell organism should know that crying rape can easily lead to a trial, followed by a conviction. 

    Other than the inexcusable injustice in this case, the thing that I found interesting was the fact that his illegal activity is what opened the door to his exoneration. Unless California’s laws are more relaxed (highly doubtful), and unless Facebook’s user agreement was different then, Banks was not supposed to be on Facebook at all.  Had anyone on Facebook been savvy on the law, he could have been dimed out at any time. 

    Let’s see if the system gives this young lady a fair and impartial hearing in court. She has earned it. 

  4. Socarates says:

    Although counter-intuitive, it may not be prudent to go after this fabricator. Its a question of which deterrence is more effective: (1) deterring the initial false report, or (2) deterring the later admission of fabrication. 

    Given the manner in which the very rare false reports usually (probably) develop (being caught by roommate or supervisor; bad alcohol-induced sex and buyer’s remorse; reputational regrets) and things snowballing out of control, I’m not sure that deterrence works at this early stage – or more importantly – that any superior in today’s climate would dare raise this threat, even meekly, of consequences from a false official statement, etc.   

    For the greater social good, and to not deter later admissions of fabrication, it might be better to hold our nose and do nothing.  I know its counter-intuitive, kinda like when the police let speeding cars get away in high population zones when public safety concerns override the value of capture. 

  5. Just Sayin' says:

    Capt Stewart, I’m going to have to object to your use of the term “lady” in this situation.

  6. Capt N.S. Stewart, USMC says:

    @Socrates…admittedly a consideration I never considered, and a good point, not that you need approval from the clueless, of course. 

    @Just Sayin’…I’ve had a lot of practice removing myself from emotion in an attempt to be fair to those subject to judgment. But, I agree. It is very difficult to keep these situations from inspiring an emotional response.

  7. Soonergrunt says:

    People lie.  All the time.  About everything.  Men and women lie about sex.
    Sometimes people, mostly women, lie about rape because they’re embarrased, sometimes they lie because they want sympathy or because they were cheating on a spouse/significant other and they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.  They lie because it’s easier to claim they were raped than to admit they were willfully violating the law or regulations themselves, and finally they lie frequently because they’ve determined they can get some kind of material gain from doing so.
    Sometimes, like my case a long time ago, she’ll lie because she thinks it’s the way to keep her supervisor from beginning an adverse personnel action, and then she can’t figure a way out of it because she’s an immature narcissist who doesn’t know how to take responsibility for her own life, which traits got her into trouble in the first place.  That immaturity, narcissism, and inability to take responsibility for her own life are probably common traits of false accusers.  And these people are different from accusers who don’t remember consenting and have no ill intent even as they are wrong.
    I’m not a Lawyer as you all know.  Nor am I a psychologist, or any other kid of specialist here.  I’m just a dumb grunt who was in a co-ed MOS and unit a long time ago.  I don’t believe the numbers of around 40% false accusations that I hear from time to time, but I also don’t believe the claim that false accusations (distinct from other types of unfounded accusations) or only 2% either.

  8. stewie says:

    I agree with SG, people lie for all sorts of reasons, none of which necessarily entailiing engaging their higher brain functions (if they have them) that suggest maybe there might be long-term ramifications to this lie.
    People often don’t think like they need to in chess, they just think about the next move.

  9. k fischer says: is a good blog regarding the wrongfully accused.  Most of their cases involve false allegations of rape. 

    SG, you should get your degree in psychology, so I can be an aggressive defense counsel and request you as an expert witness on every single case, although you would might be impeached as biased based on your personal experience.

    (disclaimer: I submit stories from time to time regarding false allegations in the military).