, Salem, MA

Local News

September 13, 2013

Prosecutors fighting request to seal case

Rape charge was dropped by DA in 2010

DANVERS — A Peabody man cleared of a rape charge after prosecutors dropped their case against him 31/2 years ago is asking a judge to seal his record.

The Essex County District Attorney’s Office is opposing the request, arguing that the circumstances that led them to cease their prosecution of Robert Banks of Peabody on a child rape charge are not the “exceptional” type of circumstances outlined in the law dealing with sealing criminal records.

Banks, now 24, was charged in September 2007, after a 15-year-old girl and her father reported to police that she was sexually assaulted in her home by another teenager she identified as “Bobby,” a friend of a friend, prosecutors said at the time. The girl told police that while her friend went outside to make a phone call, she was sexually assaulted, according to a police report. Because the girl was under 16, Banks, then 18, was charged with child rape.

During the proceedings, lawyers for Banks cited inconsistencies in the girl’s account, including her claim to have met her assailant at a party that Banks had not attended. DNA evidence in the case raised more questions, when it turned out that it did not match Banks.

The other teen who had been in the house that day subsequently refused to provide a DNA sample, according to the case docket.

But what ultimately led prosecutors to drop the case, through a legal process known as a “nolle prosequi,” was the girl’s decision not to testify as the case was about to go to trial in 2010.

Now, prosecutors are arguing that since the only reason the case was dropped is the girl’s unwillingness to testify, Banks has no grounds to have his record sealed.

Banks and his lawyer, Michael Phelan, cited last year’s revisions to the state’s Criminal Offenders Records Information or “CORI” law, which now allows for the sealing of records in cases that have been “nol prossed,” dismissed or led to a finding of not guilty.

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