After serving over 5 years in jail for a rape he didn't commit, ex-football prospect Brian Banks seeks to restart his life and an NFL career.
In 2001 Brian Banks was a budding NFL prospect at Polytechnic High in Long Beach, California. Like most 16 year-old high schoolers he went one day to the local "makeout spot" with a fellow student. Although they did not have sex and the meeting was consensual, Banks found himself charged with rape and facing a potential 41 years in prison.
Brian Banks was a 16 year-old, 225-pound linebacker being heavily recruited by top schools to include USC. Wanetta Gibson was a 15 year-old student. After the makeout session at the school both students returned to class. “By the end of the day,” Banks said, “I was in custody.”
It was her word against his and even though there was no DNA evidence and no witnesses Banks was instructed by his lawyer to take a plea for 5 years in prison instead of risking 41 years in prison on charges of forcible rape. The reason he was told to take the plea? Banks said of his lawyer: “She told me I was a big black teenager,” he said, “and no jury would believe anything I said.”
Banks served 5 years and 2 months in prison and another 5 years on probation as a registered sex offender and tied to an ankle monitor. Meanwhile, the accuser Wanetta Gibson filed a lawsuit against the school district for not providing a safe environment and received a $1.5 million settlement.
Wanetta Gibson friends Banks on Facebook and recants
It was not until last year when out of the blue Wanetta Gibson inexplicably friended Banks on Facebook. Upon getting the notice Banks said “I stopped what I was doing, and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right.”
Banks setup an initial meeting with Gibson where she admitted that she had lied and that there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record. She refused however 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.
Banks setup a second meeting with Gibson, but this time he secretly videotaped the encounter at which 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.
Banks and his lawyer took this evidence to court and in a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday, it took all of 30 seconds for a judge to exonerate Banks and clear his record.
Future for Brian Banks
With his name cleared and a new lease on life Brian Banks has hopes of playing in the NFL. He has been working out since October and has dropped 50 pounds.
“Let me show you what I can produce,” Banks said on NBC’s Today show. “I think that any team that gives me an opportunity will be really impressed with what I can do.”
Rape is one of the most serious charges anyone can face and every false accusation makes it harder for real rape victims to get justice. Wanetta Gibson not only owes Brian Banks an apology, but she owes every real victim of rape an apology as well.
For Brian, we wish you luck in your future endeavors, whether they include the NFL or not.
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