Man Exonerated Of Bogus Rape Charge After 5 Years In Prison – Victim Lied About Kidnapping, Rape, Received $1.5 Million In Civil Suit, And Probably Won’t be Prosecuted For Lying

May 24, 2012

LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA — A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.

Brian Banks, now 26, pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.

In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.

During an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.

But she 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.

During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told 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,'” according to Freddie Parish, a defense investigator who was at the meeting.

It was uncertain whether Gibson will have to return the money and unlikely she would be prosecuted for making the false accusation so long ago, when she was 15.

Gibson did not attend the hearing and she could not be reached for comment. Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they were unable to find her recently.

Banks, once a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, had attracted the interest of such college football powerhouses as the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, according to the website Rivals.com, which tracks the recruiting of high school football and basketball players.

Banks said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a scholarship when he was arrested.

He still hopes to play professional football and has been working out regularly. His attorney Justin Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give him a chance.

“He has the speed and the strength. He certainly has the heart,” Brooks said. “I hope he gets the attention of people in the sports world.”

Gil Brandt, an NFL draft consultant, said Banks would be eligible to sign with any team that might show interest. However, his years away from the game will be hard to overcome.

“History tells us guys who come back after one or two years away when they go into the service find it awfully hard,” Brandt said. “And this has been much longer a time.”

Brandt compared the challenge to someone who has been out of high school for years trying to get an A in their first class in college.

Banks said outside court that he had lost all hope of proving his innocence until Gibson contacted him.

“It’s been a struggle. But I’m unbroken and I’m still here today,” the tall, muscular Banks said, tears flowing down his face.

He recalled being shocked and speechless on the day Gibson reached out to him after he had been released from prison, having served five years and two months.

“I thought maybe it wasn’t real,” he said. “How could she be contacting me?”

He said he knew that if he became angry when he met with her it wouldn’t help, so he struggled to keep calm.

“I stopped what I was doing and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right,” he said.

In court, Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira told Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim that prosecutors agreed the case should be thrown out. Kim dismissed it immediately.

Banks had tried to win release while he was in prison, but Brooks, a law professor and head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he could not have been exonerated without the woman coming forward and recanting her story.

Brooks said it was the first case he had ever taken in which the defendant had already served his time and had been free for a number of years.

Banks remained on probation, however, and was still wearing his electronic monitoring bracelet at the hearing. His lawyer said the first thing the two planned to do was report to probation officials and have it removed.

“The charges are dismissed now,” Brooks said. “It’s as if it didn’t happen. … It was the shortest, greatest proceeding I’ve ever been part of.”

Banks had been arrested after Gibson said he met her in a school hallway and urged her to come into an elevator with him. The two had been friends since middle school and were in the habit of making out in a school stairwell, according to court papers.

There were contradictions in Gibson’s story, as she told some people the rape happened in the elevator and others that it happened in the stairwell.

A kidnapping enhancement was added to the case because of the allegation Banks had taken her to the stairwell. That enhancement also was thrown out Thursday.

Outside court, Banks donned a sweat shirt that read “Innocent,” as several friends and family members wept. His parents were jubilant, and Banks thanked them for standing by him.

“I know the trauma, the stress that I’ve been through, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to have your child torn from you,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without my parents.”

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Zimmerman Spoke In Public Forum A Year Ago In Support Of Black Homeless Man Beaten By Son Of Sanford Florida Police Officer And Covered Up By Corrupt Department

May 24, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman accused a Florida police department of corruption more than a year before he shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

Zimmerman’s public comments could be important because the Martin family and supporters contend the neighborhood watch volunteer singled Martin out because he was black. Zimmerman has a Peruvian mother and a white father. His supporters have said he is not racist.

Zimmerman, who claims the Feb. 26 shooting was self-defense, was initially not arrested. But after nationwide protests and an investigation by a state prosecutor, he was charged.

Zimmerman is free on bond awaiting his second-degree murder trial for shooting Martin. Martin was walking back to a townhome he was staying at when he got into a fight with Zimmerman, who shot him in the chest at close range.

“I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white,” Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to Sanford city commissioners at a community forum on Jan. 8, 2011.

The forum took place days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Tooley’s department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

“I’d like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley’s pension,” Zimmerman said to the commission. “I’m not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he’s already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up in corruption in what happened in his department.”

Trayvon Martin was talking on his cell phone when he was shot and killed in February.

The Miami Herald first reported details from the January 2011 community forum Wednesday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the tape from the meeting.

In the speech, Zimmerman said he witnessed “disgusting” behavior by officers when he was part of a ride-along program, though the agency said it did not know when, if ever, Zimmerman was in that program.

“The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps. He explained to me he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words, ‘Anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you’re gonna find me as far away from it.'”

Zimmerman also said the officer in question “took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers.”

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and interim police chief Richard Myers were both unavailable for comment.

Tooley’s successor, Bill Lee, temporarily resigned his post following a no-confidence vote by city commissioners.

Lee offered to resign permanently, but his commissioners turned down his request. He is on paid leave.

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Dumbass Cleveland Ohio Police Officer Tickets Man Who Dropped Money On The Ground While Handing It To A Disabled Man – Could Cost $500 For Dropping Dollar Bill

May 23, 2012

CLEVELAND, OHIO — A random act of kindness lands a man in trouble with police.

Last Monday, May 14th John Davis was exiting I-90 at the West 117th ramp when he saw a man in a wheelchair. The man was pale, thin and holding a sign that had a religious sentiment and also a request for help.

John thought to himself, “I think we’re all to help the less fortunate.”

The middle class family man from Elyria works hard for a living and enjoys giving back especially to people who are physically challenged.

“I have a brother that’s paralyzed,” said John, “My brother’s in that same situation and struggles.”

John reached into his wallet and grabbed a couple of bucks to give to the man. As he approached the light at the exit, he rolled the money up vertically and stretched his arm out of his window. He says, the man touched the cash and one of the dollars fell to the ground.

The man then bent over and picked it up.

Moments later as John travelled North on West 117th he says a Cleveland police officer pulled him over.

“He proceeds to tell me he’s pulling me over for littering,” said John.

John and his friends who witnessed the exchange were baffled.

The ticket cited Section No: 613.06 of Cleveland’s Municipal Codes, which is littering from a motor vehicle.

His offense was listed as, “Throw paper out window,” and in parenthesis, “money to panhandler.”

John said he was confused because money is paper but it’s not trash.

Cleveland police can’t comment on the ticket at this time but according to a spokesperson there is another code that may have been violated.

There is a code which states that it is illegal to panhandle or give money to panhandlers near a highway or street including a berm, shoulder, treelawn or sidewalk.

Section No: 471.06 states in part that “No person shall stand on a highway for the purpose of soliciting…contributions…”

It also reads that “No driver” is to “transfer currency….to any person standing on a street or highway.”

But John says that’s not what he was ticketed for. He was cited for littering from a motor vehicle, and the officer advised him to “take it up with the courts.”

John does plan to challenge the ticket in court, mainly because it carries a hefty fine. It could cost him $500 once you add the fine plus court costs.

John says he has always had a deep admiration for Cleveland police, and he isn’t trying to start trouble, but that’s a lot of money for helping out someone less fortunate.

“I don’t mean any disrespect toward the police department at all we need ‘em but I just wish I didn’t have to pay this ticket,” said John Davis.

The experience has left him disheartened, and has already destroyed his joy and willingness to give money to those in need.

“I’d like to do it again but I’m petrified I’m going to get a ticket.”

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Highest Court In Texas Orders State To Pay Just $2 Million To Man Inprisoned 26 Years On Bogus Conviction – Opens Door To Others Wrongfully Imprisoned To Receive Compensation

May 19, 2012

HOUSTON, TEXAS — The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the Lone Star State to pay more than $2 million to a former inmate who spent 26 years in prison for murder, a ruling that could set a precedent for compensating other prisoners whose convictions are overturned.

Billy Frederick Allen, now in his 60s, was convicted of two 1983 Dallas-area murders. Unlike other inmates freed after DNA evidence proved their innocence, Allen was freed in 2009 after a court found problems with witness testimony and his trial attorneys’ representation. Allen sued the state for compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

Allen’s attorney said the Supreme Court ruling may prove key to developing standards for when the state must compensate former prisoners.

“There are many cases where people are struggling and they don’t have DNA, but they now have hope,” Allen’s attorney, Kris Moore of McKinney, Texas, told the Los Angeles Times. “The implications of this for the Texas justice system are probably larger than people realize.”

He said the ruling may make it easier for inmates such as Richard Miles of Dallas – who served 14 years for crimes he didn’t commit, then spent two years awaiting a court ruling that finally came in February – to be compensated more quickly.

But he said it’s not clear what bearing Allen’s case may have on other ongoing high-profile exoneration battles. In one such case, Kerry Max Cook has written a book and attracted celebrity supporters in his fight to prove his innocence and receive compensation for serving 22 years on Texas’ death row for an East Texas murder he says he never committed.

Texas’ compensation law is the most generous in the U.S., according to officials at the New York-based Innocence Project. Freed inmates declared innocent by a judge, prosecutor or a governor’s pardon can collect $80,000 for every year of imprisonment, along with an annuity and medical and education benefits.

Dallas has become a lightning rod in the national debate over exonerations and capital punishment, with the most exonerations in Texas and the state’s first African-American district attorney who has championed the cause of exonerees.

But in Allen’s case, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs resisted paying, arguing that unlike other wrongfully convicted inmates, Allen did not have newly tested DNA or other evidence to prove his innocence.

On Friday, a spokesman for Combs’ office released a statement to the Times saying the state did not plan to appeal and was already processing Allen’s payment.

“Now that we have helpful guidance from the Supreme Court, we have immediately started the process of paying Billy Allen approximately $2 million for wrongful-imprisonment compensation,” spokesman R.J. DeSilva said in the statement. “The court’s decision will also help us pay any other exonerees with similar circumstances to Mr. Allen.”

DeSilva noted that Texas has already paid 80 exonerees $49.5 million in wrongful-imprisonment compensation.

The state Supreme Court ruled Allen had a legitimate claim, despite the fact that his innocence had not been established through DNA.

“While unlikely, it is conceivable that the state could compensate someone who is later found guilty of the crime,” the court said in the ruling. However, the court said, that should not be grounds for limiting compensation to some wrongfully convicted inmates and not others.

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Alan Dershowitz: The Only Real Expert Commenting On Zimmerman Case – Bogus Charges Must Be Dropped

May 18, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – A medical report by George Zimmerman’s doctor has disclosed that Zimmerman had a fractured nose, two black eyes, two lacerations on the back of his head and a back injury on the day after the fatal shooting. If this evidence turns out to be valid, the prosecutor will have no choice but to drop the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman — if she wants to act ethically, lawfully and professionally.

There is, of course, no assurance that the special prosecutor handling the case, State Attorney Angela Corey, will do the right thing. Because until now, her actions have been anything but ethical, lawful and professional.

She was aware when she submitted an affidavit that it did not contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She deliberately withheld evidence that supported Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. The New York Times has reported that the police had “a full face picture” of Zimmerman, before paramedics treated him, that showed “a bloodied nose.” The prosecutor also had photographic evidence of bruises to the back of his head.

This Feb. 27, 2012 photo released by the State Attorney’s Office shows George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin, with blood on the back of his head. The photo and reports were among evidence released by prosecutors that also includes calls to police, video and numerous other documents.

But none of this was included in any affidavit.

Now there is much more extensive medical evidence that would tend to support Zimmerman’s version of events. This version, if true, would establish self-defense even if Zimmerman had improperly followed, harassed and provoked Martin.

A defendant, under Florida law, loses his “stand your ground” defense if he provoked the encounter — but he retains traditional self-defense if he reasonably believed his life was in danger and his only recourse was to employ deadly force.

Thus, if Zimmerman verbally provoked Martin, but Martin then got on top of Zimmerman and banged his head into the ground, broke his nose, bloodied his eyes and persisted in attacking Zimmerman — and if Zimmerman couldn’t protect himself from further attack except by shooting Martin — he would have the right to do that. (The prosecution has already admitted that it has no evidence that Zimmerman started the actual fight.)

This is a fact-specific case, in which much turns on what the jury believes beyond a reasonable doubt. It must resolve all such doubts in favor of the defendant, because our system of justice insists that it is better for 10 guilty defendants to go free than for even one innocent to be wrongfully convicted.

You wouldn’t know that from listening to Corey, who announced that her jobs was “to do justice for Trayvon Martin” — not for George Zimmerman.

As many see it, her additional job is to prevent riots of the sort that followed the acquittal of the policemen who beat Rodney King.

Indeed, Mansfield Frazier, a columnist for the Daily Beast, has suggested that it is the responsibility of the legal system to “avert a large scale racial calamity.” He has urged Zimmerman’s defense lawyer to become a “savior” by brokering a deal to plead his client guilty to a crime that “has him back on the streets within this decade.”

But it is not the role of a defense lawyer to save the world or the country. His job — his only job — is to get the best result for his client, by all legal and ethical means.

Listen to the way a famous British barrister put it in 1820:

“An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows, in the discharge of that office, but one person in the world, that client and none other . . . Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them, if need be, to the wind, he must go on reckless of the consequences, if his fate it should unhappily be, to involve his country in confusion for his client’s protection.”

The prosecutor’s job is far broader: to do justice to the defendant as well as the alleged victim. As the Supreme Court has said: “The government wins . . . when justice is done.”

Zimmerman’s lawyer is doing his job. It’s about time for the prosecutor to start doing hers.

Dershowitz, a defense attorney, is a professor at Harvard Law School.
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Police Reports And Witnesses Back George Zimmerman – Yet He Still Faces Bogus Charges After Killing Druggie In Self Defense During Brutal Beating

May 17, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – Two police reports written the night that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin said that Zimmerman had a bloody face and nose, according to police reports made public today.

The reports also note that two witness accounts appear to back up Zimmerman’s version of what happened when they describe a man on his back with another person wearing a hoodie straddling him and throwing punches.

It has been such a contentious case that even the evidence is being disputed.

The police report states that Trayvon Martin’s father told an investigator after listening to 911 tapes that captured a man’s voice frantically callling for help that it was not his son calling for help.

But Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, claims that is not true. The Martin family lawyer Ben Crump told ABC News that Tracy Martin initially listened to a distorted version of the 911 calls and said he could not identify the voice. But when he listened to a second tape that had been “cleaned,” “He immediately broke down in tears because he knew it was his son calling for help,” Crump said.

The new information is part of a trove of documents released by the Florida State Attorney today in the case against Zimmerman, who is charged with second degree murder for the Feb. 26 killing of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American male.

Zimmerman, 28, is a multi-racial Hispanic man who volunteered for the neighborhood watch committee who claimed that he shot Martin in self-defense after the 6-foot tall, 160 pound teenager knocked him to the ground, banged his head against the ground and went for Zimmerman’s gun.

The documents start with a criticism of Zimmerman’s decision to follow the teenager, who Zimmerman said was looking suspicious.

“The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement,” an investigating officer wrote.

Zimmerman claims he got out of his vehicle to find a house number to let police know where he saw the allegedly suspicious person, and while returning to his car was knocked down by a punch in the nose and attacked by Martin.

Two police officers reported that when they arrived at the scene of the shooting, Zimmerman seemed to have a battered nose and bloodied face. One wrote that his “facial area was bloodied,” and the back of his clothing was soiled with wet grass.

“Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and the back of his head,” Officer Ricardo Ayala wrote.

Another officer wrote, “I saw that Zimmerman’s face was bloodied and it appeared to me that his nose was broken.”

Witnesses, whose names were redacted from the report, also lent support to Zimmerman’s version of what happened.

“He witnesses a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male and throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style,'” the police report of the witness said. “He then heard a pop. He stated that after hearing the pop, he observed the person he had previously observed on top of the other person (the male wearing the hoodie) laid out on the grass.”

A second witness described a person on the ground with another straddling him and throwing punches. The man on the bottom was yelling for help, the witness told police.

The documents state that Zimmerman can be heard yelling for help 14 times on a 911 call recorded during the fight.

Yet another witness described the confrontation in emotional terms.

The witness heard “someone yelling, almost crying. Then I heard a gunshot.” The witness wrote that he or she “saw a man on top of a guy laying on the ground. He was putting his hands on his neck or chest.”

The man asked the witness to call 911.

“He stood up and took a couple steps away and put his hands on his head and then walked back over to the guy on the ground. He looked at him for a minute, then started to walk away toward the road. That is when the police walked up,” the witness wrote.

The lead investigator on the case, Officer Christopher Serino, wrote that Zimmerman could be heard “yelling for help as he was being battered by Trayvon Martin.”

Martin’s death sparked public outrage after police released Zimmerman without any criminal charges for the killing. Zimmerman was later charged with second-degree murder, and the killing provoked widespread debate about racial profiling.

The autopsy also shows that Zimmerman shot Martin from a distance of between 1 inch and 18 inches away, bolstering Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Martin during a close struggle.

Martin’s autopsy report also revealed that there was a quarter-inch by half-inch abrasion on the left fourth finger of Martin, another indication of a possible struggle.

The teen, who lived in Miami, was in Sanford while serving a suspension for a bag of marijuana being discovered in his possession. Martin had THC, the drug found in marijuana, in his blood on the night of his death, according to the autopsy. His family told ABC News that it was “trace amounts” of THC.
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Federal Judge Blocks Military Detention Law – Lawsuit Against President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta And Defense Department To Protect Americans From US Military – Could Have Held Citizens Forever Without Legitimate Charges

May 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a part of the National Defense Authorization Act that opponents claim could subject them to indefinite military detention for activities including news reporting and political activism.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan today ruled in favor of a group of writers and activists who sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Defense Department, claiming a provision of the act, signed into law Dec. 31, puts them in fear that they could be arrested and held by U.S. armed forces.

The complaint was filed Jan. 13 by a group including former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges. The plaintiffs contend a section of the law allows for detention of citizens and permanent residents taken into custody in the U.S. on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to people engaged in hostilities against the U.S., such as al-Qaeda.

“The statute at issue places the public at undue risk of having their speech chilled for the purported protection from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ‘associated forces’ – i.e., ‘foreign terrorist organizations,’” Forrest said in an opinion today. “The vagueness of Section 1021 does not allow the average citizen, or even the government itself, to understand with the type of definiteness to which our citizens are entitled, or what conduct comes within its scope.”

Enforcement Blocked

Forrest’s order prevents enforcement of the provision of the statute pending further order of the court or an amendment to the statute by Congress.

Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, declined to comment on the ruling.

The plaintiffs claim Section 1021 is vague and can be read to authorize their detention based on speech and associations that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Hedges and two other plaintiffs testified in a hearing before Forrest in March, the judge said. A fourth plaintiff submitted a sworn declaration. The government put on no evidence, Forrest said.

Forrest, an Obama appointee who has served on the Manhattan federal court since October, rejected the government’s arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue over the law and that it merely reaffirmed provisions in an earlier law, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Plaintiffs’ Activities

In her opinion, Forrest said the government declined to say that the activities of Hedges and the other defendants don’t fall under the provision. Forrest held a hearing in March at which government lawyers didn’t call any witnesses or present evidence, according to the judge. The government did cross- examine the plaintiffs who testified and submitted legal arguments.

“The government was given a number of opportunities at the hearing and in its briefs to state unambiguously that the type of expressive and associational activities engaged in by plaintiffs — or others — are not within Section 1021,” Forrest said. “It did not. This court therefore must credit the chilling impact on First Amendment rights as reasonable — and real.”

Hedges, who testified he has been a foreign news correspondent for 20 years, said he has reported on 17 groups that are on a State Department list of terrorist groups. Hedges testified that after the law was passed, he changed his dealings with groups he had reported on, Forrest said.

“I think the ruling was not only correct, but courageous and important,” Hedges said in a telephone interview today.

The case is Hedges v. Obama, 12-CV-00331, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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