In 2002, a 16 year-old named Brian Banks was on top of the world. He was a top football prospect who had committed to play for the USC Trojans. Then one day a fellow classmate named Wanetta Gibson accused him of rape. Despite claims that he had raped the girl with no condom on, the rape kit showed that none of his ejaculate was present, and a simple walk through the school would prove to anyone with half a brain that the story being told was impossible. Unfortunately, Brian followed the advice of his (apparently terrible) attorney and accepted a plea deal to serve 5 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit in order to avoid a possible 41 year maximum sentence. As part of the deal he entered a “No Contest” plea to one count of forcible rape.
About a year ago, the accuser contacted Brian on Facebook. He asked her if she would meet with him and a private investigator. She agreed, and when they met, their conversation was recorded. Wanetta Gibson is on tape saying that she was not raped but didn’t come forward because her family needed the $1.5 million they won in the lawsuit against the school district over the rape. Because of this terrible lie, Brian spent 5 years in jail and 5 years as a registered sex offender who had to wear a GPS monitoring anklet. No one would give him a job, and he lived with friends and relatives just to survive. He lost his opportunity to go to USC, and by extension, he’d seemingly lost his future. Then something wonderful happened.
Last week (after lots of hard work by the California Innocence Project) his conviction was overturned. Brian is a truly free man again and no longer has to register as a sex offender or be monitored, and it turns out he never gave up on his NFL dreams. Brian has bee working hard to keep in top shape, and now three NFL teams are going to let him try out. He’ll try out with the Seattle Seahawks on June 7th and is also reportedly trying out with the Chiefs and Redskins. On top of all that, Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall has publicly offered him a job with the organization if the football thing doesn’t work out.
On a side note, we all know the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. When this woman brought up these fake charges, she wasn’t just flushing Brian’s life down the toilet. She was also making it so real allegations of rape will be taken a little less seriously by the general public. With enough false accusations like this, that slow erosion could do serious damage to the American justice system, so don’t falsely accuse people of anything. The consequences are much more serious and much more widespread than you could ever imagine.
In 2010, now retired Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Prop. 8, a ban on same-sex marriage approved by 52% of California voters. This decision was questioned because Judge Walker is gay and in a long-term relationship. Proponents of Proposition 8 filed an appeal, and today that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, standing by the original decision that the ban violates the Constitution of the United States of America.
On a personal note, I’m proud and overjoyed that my nation’s judicial system has upheld our Constitution and not allowed itself to be used as a tool small-mindedness and bigotry that strips away the civil rights of millions of Americans.
Take it away, Gavin.
[image from Reuters]
In America we like to talk about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Much like our claims of having the best schools and healthcare in the world, it’s not true. Reporters Without Borders released a list of countries ranked by how how free their press is, #1 being the most free. The top spot went to Finland. Where did America place? 47th. Forty-freaking-seventh. For the sake of comparison, Canada placed 10th and the UK placed 28th.
Internet users all over the world can take pride in the fact that our protests seem to have put a halt to SOPA and PIPA. However, it is vital to our online freedom that we remain vigilant. Being put on indefinite hold isn’t the same as dead. The real problem is two-fold: big business has enough sway to make legislators listen and, as is often the case with government, the people in power simply don’t understand what they are trying to regulate. Even today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said referring to PIPA “There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved.” I suggest you give him a call and tell him why PIPA is bad idea. Here’s his contact info. Don’t bother emailing. Speaking with someone in his office directly is the only sure way to make sure you’re heard. After all, he’s still supporting PIPA, so he’s almost certainly computer illiterate. Make sure to ask why PIPA is necessary when it’s already possible to take down sites like MegaUpload.
So what’s the takeaway from all this? Government and big business will always be conspiring to chip away at our freedoms in some form or another, but government answers to us. It’s our duty to put them back on the right path when they’ve strayed. We the people may not have the money, but we do have the numbers. When we stand united there is nothing we can’t do.
On Jan 24th, the Senate will vote on whether or not to pass internet censorship a massive internet censorship bill, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed when t he bill is explained to them. We need to kill the bill – PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House – to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity. We need internet companies to follow Reddit’s lead and stand up for the web, as millions of internet users are doing every day.
In protest of SOPA and PIPA, AnomicOfficeDrone.com proudly joins Mozilla, Reddit, WordPress, Wikipedia, Boing Boing and others in this January 18, 2012 strike. Please find more information about PIPA and SOPA below.
Your regularly scheduled blog will return tomorrow…