Brian Banks, 26, bowed his head and trembled, his eyes flooding with tears. His girlfriend, Pamela Soladar, yelped with joy. They made their way to each other and embraced, Banks too overwhelmed to speak.
“You made it,” she whispered to him.
It had been a long, maddening journey.
He was attending summer school, and asked his teacher to leave class so he could make a phone call, according to court papers. Then Banks, a senior, ran into Wanetta Gibson, a sophomore.
Banks said they fooled around, but that their sexual contact was consensual. His mother, Leomia Myers, believed him, and said she sold her condo and her car to pay for his defense.
“I knew I didn’t raise my son to do something so horrendous,” she said.
Gibson’s version shifted over the years. She could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Initially, court papers show, she told a classmate, in a note rife with misspellings: “he picked me up and put me in the elevator and he took me down stairs and he pulled my pants down and he rapped me and he didn’t have an condom on and I was a virgin now Im not.” Gibson later told authorities a similar, more detailed story.
But when she testified during Banks’ preliminary hearing, Gibson faced the rigorous questioning typical in sexual assault cases. She changed some details and added others, Banks’ attorneys alleged in court documents.
Banks pleaded no contest to one count of forcible rape, spent five years in prison and, upon his release, was forced to register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. At one point, he begged the California Innocence Project in San Diego for help, but he was told that without new evidence, there was nothing its attorneys could do.