Brian Banks | California Innocence Project | Atlanta Falcons

From the California Innocence Project:

In 2002, seventeen-year-old Brian Banks was wrongfully convicted of rape.  At the time of his conviction, Banks was, by all accounts, a rising football star destined to play in the NFL.  Tragically, Banks would never realize his dream of going to college and playing professional football.

California Lawyers with the Innocence Project seem to have changed that.

A high-school acquaintance – Wanetta Gibson – shattered that dream one fateful day after she accused Banks of rape and kidnapping following a consensual sexual encounter on the school campus.  It was Banks’ word against hers and she was not likely to change her story.  After all, Gibson sued the Long Beach Unified School District claiming the school’s lax security provided an unsafe environment that led to the fraudulent rape.  She would eventually receive a settlement of 1.5 million dollars.

Banks was faced with an impossible decision at the time – either fight the charges and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal and spend a little over 5 years of actual prison confinement.   Although it would mean destroying his chance to go to college and play football, a lengthy probationary period, and a lifetime of registration as a sex offender, Banks chose the lesser of two evils when he pleaded no contest to the charges.

Nearly a decade after his conviction, Gibson recanted her statements and has acknowledged she fabricated the whole story.  The California Innocence Project presented this evidence of Banks’ innocence to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office who launched an investigation into the case.  After a thorough review of the evidence, the District Attorney’s Office conceded that Banks was wrongfully convicted.

On Thursday, May 24, 2012, Judge Mark C. Kim of the Los Angeles Superior Court reversed Banks’ conviction and ended his nightmare of wrongful conviction.

“We are pleased to have Brian join our team,” said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. “We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then. He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL, and we look forward to seeing him on the field.”

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