Good news is difficult to find in my current line of work. Even when actual sex-crime perpetrators are “put away,” even when their victims receive that small consolation, countless questions remain, regarding the state of investigations and prosecutions of sex crimes in the U.S.1
But, as I indicated, I wanted to stick with good news this morning, and to that end I’d like to note three false cases in the news lately, all of which hail from California;2 two of which have reached rare positive outcomes, while a third gives every indication that it, too, will turn out well for the falsely accused.
1. It appears that Brian Banks, at long last, will be able to return to some semblance of normalcy and freedom, and perhaps even get back on track to his deferred dream of playing professional football. Wrongfully convicted of kidnap and rape in 2002, at just seventeen years of age, Banks served six years in prison only to be shackled to GPS monitoring and the public sex-offender-registry every day since. In an odd turn of events, Banks’ accuser, Wanetta Gibson, who was herself a teen at the time, not only “friended” Banks on Facebook after his release, but also acknowledged what Banks knew all too well: that she had lied and then sat silent as she watched his life destroyed in front of her. Luckily for Banks, however, the California Innocence Project3 took his case, and on May 24th Banks was, at last, exonerated.4
While Banks “success story”—though one can hardly call it such a thing—is rare and wonderful, the circumstances of his conviction were anything but rare. Adults, both familial and professional, encouraged the young Gibson’s fabricated rape story—most especially Gibson’s mother and her attorneys, who also successfully sued the public school where the rape was alleged to have occurred (for not being a “safe environment,” if you can imagine such a place existing) to the tune of $1.5 million.
Banks’ own attorney advised him in the manner of most attorneys: take a plea rather than risk a jury trial.5 So the young Banks, knowing no better and scared out of his mind, did just that. He pleaded “no contest” to the charges and was sentenced to six years, rather than facing the 41-years-to-life he faced if convicted at a jury trial. (Similar, too, to seventeen-year-old Jeremy Barney, who pleaded no contest and received 20 years, rather than facing over 100 years if convicted by a jury.)
Banks’ case is rare, however, in that his false accuser eventually felt a twinge of remorse—or, at least, in Gibson’s words, felt it was time “to let bygones be bygones,” where, apparently, “bygones” equal six years in maximum-security on a kidnapping and rape conviction, followed by years of public humiliation and, until now, a ruined future. Gibson’s only reservation, it turns out, was that she and her mom didn’t want to have to pay back that $1.5 million. “I will go through with helping you,” Gibson told Banks, “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.”6
While it is almost a certainty that Gibson will have to do just that, it remains to be seen if she will be prosecuted for making false felony allegations. Legally, she should. Morally . . . —well, personally I hate to see anyone sentenced to prison for non-violent crimes. Perhaps the State will figure out a way for Gibson to make restitution, such as giving two-pronged seminars on the damage she has done to women’s long struggle to be heard and believed, regarding sex crimes, as well as how easy it was for her, even as a teen, to destroy a person’s life with the blessing of the State and the best minds of its executive and legislative branches, along with an army of “professionals,” none of whom had any business being in the field and should not only be held accountable along with Gibson, but whose prior cases should be re-examined as well. 7
2. In a second bit of rare good news, photographer Paul Rusconi was recently acquitted on some of the more heinous child-sex-crime charges imaginable: namely, that he had raped his infant daughters. An accomplished photographer known for his portraits of everyone from Mary-Kate Olsen to Barack Obama, Rusconi was accused by a distant relative who also worked as a nanny for Rusconi’s twins. The evidence in the case? Rusconi posted to Twitter a lovely photo of he and his daughters in the bathtub, all of them photographed from the neck up, in a soft light, capturing a tender and beautiful, if otherwise ordinary, moment between a father and his newborn daughters.8
Rusconi, however, is gay, and being gay, for his accusers, meant that Rusconi was a deviant, and not just a deviant but a rapist, and not just an incestuous rapist but—for reasons inexplicable to anyone with a normal intelligence—a rapist who was male and gay but nonetheless chose to assault his female children.
“They all called me a sexual deviant and a pervert,” Rusconi said in an interview KTLA News. “That’s all stemming from my sexuality.”9
It would take almost a year before Rusconi was acquitted, during which time the State, in its infinite wisdom, placed Rusconi’s daughters in the home of his accusers.
As of last week, however, Rusconi not only stands cleared of all charges, but is rightfully suing his accusers in civil court. Not only did Rusconi’s accusers make false felony allegations, but as a result, Rusconi’s two infant girls were subjected to testing by rape kits.10
Whether the State will bring criminal charges against Rusconi’s accusers, and whether their actions can also be prosecuted as a hate crime, remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen if Rusconi will sue the State for negligence, in placing his daughters with apparently mentally-ill criminals.
Those who are interested can even read the unhinged rants of one of Rusconi’s accusers herself, where she has commented, in an almost-comprehensible manner, in comment boxes on online news articles dating from Rusconi’s false arrest.11
Which (by way of malicious accusers making false felony allegations online) brings me to my third and final bit of good news:
3. A preliminary hearing date has been set for August 17th in the brazenly wrongful child-molestation case against Robert Adams, former principal of the beloved 35-year-old, private Creative Frontiers School, which was shuttered, and Adams’ business and reputation destroyed, on July 18th, 2011, just one month and one day after Rusconi was arrested.
I have already written extensively about Robert Adams and Creative Frontiers. The falsity of the case is certain. Moreover, my coverage, lengthy as it is, presents a mere taste of the level of maliciousness of the accusers as well as the incompetence of some of the authorities involved in the prosecution. But, as this needless debacle at last approaches a preliminary hearing, I have no plans to write anything new. Between now and August 17th, the DA’s office is not going to be thinking about still trying to win their case; instead they will be asking who, precisely, will be held responsible, and to what degrees, for misleading and wasting the time and resources of already-financially-destitute California’s social services, law enforcement, prosecutors, and judiciary, and which members of those departments and agencies is unfit for the magnitude of their job responsibilities.12
Adams’ attorney, Linda Parisi, said it most succinctly in the KCRA News article, so I’ll close with her words regarding August 17th: “We have an awful lot to talk about with the court. We look forward to that date.”13
1 Foremost among them, of course, is this: in alleged sex-crime cases for which no evidence exists but for the statements of complainants and defendants, which is anything but an uncommon scenario, how does one proceed?
I won’t pretend to have the answer. Nor am I convinced that an answer will ever be found.
2 For a brilliant recent analysis, see attorney Vanessa Place’s The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality, and Law.
On this site, see the less brilliant articles, “The Cost of False Cases of Child Sexual Abuse,” “Believe the Children,” and Defining “Reasonable Doubt”: The Alleged Case Against Robert Adams and Creative Frontiers (also discussed below).
4 Melissa Pamer. “Ex-Long Beach HS Football Star Exonerated From Rape Conviction: Brian Banks’ accuser reportedly recanted testimony that shattered his NFL dreams.” NBC Los Angeles. May 24, 2012. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Long-Beach-HS-Football-Star-Brian-Banks-Exonerated-from-Rape-Conviction-153683735.html
5 The plea bargain is common in all criminal cases. In felony cases, only about 10% on average see a jury trial [Myers, John E.B. The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment. 3rd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2010.]. But such pleas, however they may seem a complete mockery of justice, are even more common in sex crimes cases where no evidence exists. Faced with only the defendant’s word against the word of the accuser and the bevy of law enforcement and social workers and psychological professionals paid by the state to lend credence to the accuser’s testimony, it is no mystery whom the jury will believe. It is not a matter of “she said, he said,” especially in the U.S. , where the offices of public defenders receive downwards of 1/30th—yes, one-thirtieth—of the government funding received by the prosecutors’ offices [Daniel LaSalle, Daniel. Washington Legislative Office “Innocent Until Proven Indigent” ACLU blog. http://www.aclu.org/blog/racial-justice/innocent-until-proven-indigent]. It is a matter, then, of the alleged victim and a full roster of law enforcement and various professionals and “expert witnesses,” and indeed the State itself, versus an accused rapist and the attorney who can’t afford to defend him.
Moreover, the legal system is currently ill-equipped to deal with factual innocence in any case, let alone sex crimes for which no evidence but testimony exists. In alleged sex crimes, however, following millennia of ignoring actual molestation and rape of women and girls–and worse, outright disbelieving victims on principal, thanks to men from Freud to the authors of the Old Testament (and the Koran, et al, of course)–changes to the law at both federal and state levels have had not only made molestation and rape easier to prosecute and slightly easier on actual victims, but these changes have made it easier for false cases to sail through the courts as well.
6 Melissa Pamer. “Ex-Long Beach HS Football Star Exonerated From Rape Conviction: Brian Banks’ accuser reportedly recanted testimony that shattered his NFL dreams.” NBC Los Angeles. May 24, 2012. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Long-Beach-HS-Football-Star-Brian-Banks-Exonerated-from-Rape-Conviction-153683735.html
7 Perhaps California’s legislative branch, ordinarily so quick to make sweeping and ever-more draconian changes to procedural and sentencing laws for sex crimes, will consider leading the nation in establishing a national False Accusers Registry as well, so that Gibson can’t decide, later in life, that she’d like to move to a new town or new state and make millions from destroying another innocent person’s life.
8 “Paul Rusconi, Malibu Artist, Cleared Of Allegations Of Raping His Twin Daughters.” Huffington Post. May 14, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/paul-rusconi-malibu-artist_n_1516299.html
9 “Father of Two Cleared of Rape Allegations: Malibu artist and photographer Paul Rusconi believes the charges were leveled because he is gay.” KTLA News. May 11, 2012. http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-rusconi,0,7341162.story
10 “Father of Two Cleared of Rape Allegations: Malibu artist and photographer Paul Rusconi believes the charges were leveled because he is gay.” KTLA News. May 11, 2012. http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-rusconi,0,7341162.story
12 The original lead detective on the case—who not only drafted the “wish-list” of an arrest warrant, but lead armed officers into the preschool during school hours (see Children, Parents, and Teachers Testify Before Mayor and Citrus Heights City Council, in Support of Robert Adams and Creative Frontiers School), after alerting local news but not the parents of the children, and only after electing not to serve the warrant while the school was closed over the weekend (see Lessons from Creative Frontiers School: Social Services and Police Timing of Arrests, Press Releases, Parental Notification)—not surprisingly, is no longer a detective but has been bounced down to trooper again, and was last seen writing tickets on the side of the road. It remains to be seen, now, who in the prosecution’s camp gets out ahead of the inevitable axe.
13 Tom DuHain. “Former private school principal pleads not guilty: Robert Adams charged with child molestation.” KCRA Sacramento. May 23, 2012. http://www.kcra.com/news/local-news/news-sacramento/Former-private-school-principal-pleads-not-guilty/-/12969376/14065666/-/hdkful/-/index.html