What a Story: Former High School Football Star Exonerated of Rape and Now Has NFL Auditions With Four Teams

A former high school football star who was wrongfully accused of rape and imprisoned for six years and monitored for another four will now get his long-awaited shot at the NFL. Long Beach Poly High School grad Brian Banks is slated to audition for a number of teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, and Miami Dolphins. The player, who had been offered a scholarship to USC at the time of the wrongful accusation, said he’s excited for what the future holds, and that his ‘mouth hurts from smiling so much.’ The player has been training nonstop since October, and told ESPN: ‘After all I’ve been through these last 10 years, I can still do some things that will impress you.’  Even if Banks’ NFL dream doesn’t come into fruition, the exonerated high school graduate has a job offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Attorneys representing 26-year-old Banks said their client is entitled to $100 a day for every day of his incarceration under state law.

Banks was exonerated last week after his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, admitted she had made up the whole story of sexual assault ten years ago and had been reluctant to come forward because of a large settlement she received from the school district.

The Los Angeles Timeshas reported that Gibson also had been worried it would affect her relationship with her two children, now aged four and five.  Banks’ exoneration came after Gibson sent him a friend request on Facebook when he left prison in February of 2011 with a tag. In a message, she explained she wanted to ‘let bygones be bygones’.

Banks’s lawyer, Justin Brooks, told KPCCthat Gibson and Banks met and she was caught on video saying there there had been no kidnap and no rape, and would help him clear his record.  Yet she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors as she feared she would have to return a $1.5million payment she won after her mother brought a suit against Long Beach Schools.  She was quoted as telling Banks: ‘I will go through with helping you but it’s like at the same all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back.’

The 26-year-old has said he does not plan to pursue legal action against his accuser, and Los Angeles prosecutors have said it is unlikely Gibson will be charged with making false accusations, saying it would be a tough case to prove.Banks was jailed after Gibson accused him of rape in 2002, when he was just 16 and being heavily recruited by a number of colleges, including USC, which had offered him a full scholarship.  He was on the way to the school office to talk about his college applications when he bumped into Gibson, a fellow student, and they went to a stairwell to make out, Brooks told KPCC. He pointed out that they did not have intercourse.  He explained that Banks said something to upset Gibson and they parted on bad terms. She later accused him of kidnapping her, dragging her across the school and raping her in the stairwell.  Investigators tested her but found no physical evidence of rape, Brooks said. Banks maintained they had not had sex and all sexual contact had been consensual.

Yet his then lawyer encouraged the promising student to plead no contest to the kidnap and rape charges, warning Banks he could get 41 years to life in prison if convicted.  Expecting he would serve just 18 months instead, he followed the advice and pleaded no contest. He was in prison for six years.  While there, his case was taken on by Brooks, a lawyer who head the California Innocence Project.  ‘Brian’s story is so compelling, and his case for innocence so clear, we knew we had to take this on,’ said Justin Brooks. ‘Brian lost a huge part of his life when he was unjustly sent to prison.’

Brooks said Banks has remained on probation under electronic monitoring, has had to register as a sex offender and has had trouble getting a job.  After the exoneration on Thursday, Banks added: ‘My only dream in the world is just to be free… For years, I felt like a toy with the switch cut off, sitting on the shelf.’  Banks continues to train for what he hopes will be a future chance at a football career in the NFL.  ‘This is a kid who was a superstar,’ Brooks added. ‘He would be playing the NFL now if this hadn’t happened.’

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