A decade ago, former Long Beach Polytechnic high school football star Brian Banks was convicted of kidnapping and raping a classmate, but this morning his conviction was dismissed after his accuser recanted her story.
“This is the greatest day of my life," said Banks on the Patt Morrison show today.
Banks, who was 17 at the time of his trial, pleaded no contest to the charges in order to avoid the possibility of facing 40 years to life in prison in a conviction. He spent six years in prison and was under very restrictive parole until his accuser was recorded saying she wasn't raped and that she is afraid of coming forward because she might have to return the $1.5 million her family won from the Long Beach Unified School District in a civil suit.
"I received a Facebook friend request last year from the woman who accused me of raping her, where she wanted to reconnect and, in her words, 'let bygones be bygones,'" said Banks. After receiving this message, Banks hired a private investigator to set up and record their meeting, in which his accuser admitted to falsely accusing him. "From there I took that information to the California Innocence Project, who accepted my case. The rest is history, and here I am today, a free man," said Banks.
Justin Brooks is the defense attorney handling Banks' case. He said that in the history of the California Innocence Project, they have never taken a case of someone who had already been released from prison.
"His situation was so oppressive, where as a convicted sex offender, he's got an ankle monitor on, he's got to register, he can't get work because of his background with the conviction," said Brooks. "He was just in such a terrible situation, then he shows us this video where we have a clear recantation. It was very compelling and we took the case on."
Now that he has been exonerated, Banks' once-tainted record will be wiped clean, though the GPS ankle bracelet he was forced to wear was still intact when he spoke to Patt Morrison. Brooks lauded the L.A. District Attorney's Office for completing their own investigation and coming to the same conclusion of Banks' innocence, without a fight.
In the years since Banks' release from prison, he said he has had a difficult time trying to move on with his life. The implications of his parole were very restrictive, leaving it hard for him to find work or live a normal life.
"The main thing for me is to reinvent myself. To get myself in an opportunity to thrive in this world, to have the same opportunity as others," said Banks. "I always use this saying that 'good things come to those who hustle while they wait.' While waiting for my freedom, I took the opportunity to put myself through vigorous training and workouts in hopes of one day having the opportunity of trying out for a professional football team."
Brian Banks, exonerated after challenging his 2002 rape conviction
Justin Brooks, Brian Banks’ defense attorney and director, California Innocence Project