It goes without saying that rape is a terrible crime. To make matters worse, many of these crimes are never reported to the police and the perpetrators never face justice.
Rarely talked about is the other side of the coin. Crimes that are reported, but never actually occurred. In some instances, the lie is caught and the falsely accused does not become the falsely imprisoned. However, their names are often dragged through the mud by sensationalist media outlets that consider the mere accusation as good as a conviction. The Kobe Bryant and Duke Lacrosse cases are great examples of the accused being branded guilty almost immediately only to be exonerated when the facts came out.
Brian Banks was not so lucky.
As Jonathan Turley notes in his blog, Banks spent five years in prison after pleading guilty to rape in order to avoid the life sentence prosecutors threatened him with. Turley also highlights that the prosecution pushed on with the case despite the lack of physical evidence and the inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s story. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the alleged victim admitted to fabricating the story but will not face charges or be required to return the 1.5 million she was awarded in a suit against the school.
Banks had his record expunged, but the five years stolen from him can never be returned. While the woman who falsely accused him obviously bears responsibility for his ordeal, so do the prosecutors who continued on with the case. Lacking physical evidence and with the supposed victim’s story changing, the right thing to do is to drop the charges, not threaten the defendant with a life sentence to force a plea. Justice is not carried out simply by throwing a body in a cell and notching another conviction on a prosecutor’s ledger.
False accusations victimize those accused and are a slap in the face to those who are genuinely victims of rape or sexual assault. Those who make false reports should not walk unscathed for the damage they have inflicted on the lives of innocent people, and the prosecutors who push on with cases despite scant evidence should not be immune to punishment for their irresponsible behavior.