JOEL GROVER, CHRIS HENAO
The NBC4 I-Team talks with the private investigators who got a confession out of the woman who accused a former high school football star of rape. NBC4's Joel Grover reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on June 7, 2012.
A hidden camera confession helped exonerate Brian Banks, a former Long Beach high school football star, after he served five years in prison for a rape he did not commit.
In an exclusive interview with the NBC4 I-Team, Private Investigator Freddie Parish divulged how he pulled off the stunning confession that freed the 6-foot-2, 239-pound linebacker who was being courted by top schools, including the University of Southern California, when accusations were brought against him 10 years ago.
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Last year, Banks called Parish, who runs Vantage Point Investigations, asking for his help. The former football star had received a friend request on Facebook from his accuser Wanetta Gibson, who told Banks she wanted to “let bygones be bygones.”
Parish devised a plan to see if Gibson would admit she fabricated her 2002 accusation that Banks raped her in a stairwell at school.
“There was no doubt in my mind that this young man was innocent,” said Parish, who has known Banks since his son, Freddie Parish IV, played football with Banks at Long Beach Polytechnic High in 2002.
Gibson’s family received a $1.5 million settlement from the school district, and Banks took a plea bargain that sent him to prison for five years, and then faced another five years on parole, shackled with a GPS tracking device on his ankle.
In an attempt to elicit a confession, Parish wired his office with hidden cameras and microphones and suggested that Banks invite Gibson to the office to talk about their past.
“There’s only one chance to get the goods,” Parish said. “I mean, you gotta make it right the first time.”
Wanetta Gibson accepted Banks’ invitation, and showed up, by bus, at the private investigator’s Signal Hill office for a chat with her old high school crush.
“It just wasn’t true at all,” Gibson said about her rape accusation while hidden cameras were rolling.
Banks then asked Gibson for help in clearing his name, so he could move on with his life.
Gibson said she was willing to help, but didn’t want to lose the $1.5 million settlement her family received from the Long Beach School District.
“I will go through with helping you, but all that money they gave us, I don’t want to have to pay it back, because that would take a long time,” she said on the video.
With Gibson on board, Parish was ready to execute the second part of his plan: he had Banks ask Gibson to return the next day to meet with the investigator.
“I needed to get her basically to recant everything she said Brian did ten years ago,” Parish told the NBC4 I-Team. “If I let this man down, I would have to live with that the rest of my life.”
The next day Gibson returned to Parish’s office, hidden cameras were rolling. Parish then asked the critical questions about the 2002 incident between Banks and Gibson.
Parish: “Did he rape you?”
Gibson: “No, he did not rape me.”
Parish: “Did he kidnap you?”
When Gibson made the stunning confession that she’d fabricated her rape accusation, Parish thought to himself: “Wow. I got it.”
That confession was evidence that lawyers from the California Innocence Project needed to go back to court on Banks’ behalf.
Armed with the video confessions, lawyers Justin Brooks got Brian Banks rape conviction overturned on May 24.
“The videotape is a slam dunk, in the sense that she’s recanting her testimony,” said Brooks, head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law.
Now, Banks is able to finally pursue his dream of a career in pro football, thanks in large part to the work of a private investigator.
“I had a chance to make a difference in a man’s life,” Parish said.
On Thursday, Banks participated in a tryout with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.