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A footballer exonerated after five years in prison

A woman admits she fabricated a story to send a promising NFL footballer to prison for five years.

By Roy Denish

Los Angeles, California: Brian Banks was just 16 years old, a high school footballer with the Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California. A full scholarship to the University of Southern California was waiting for him. But all his hopes and dreams were shattered when an acquaintance accused him of rape.

Banks took a plea deal and spent the last years in prison. But on Tuesday, he walked out as a free man after a Los Angeles Country superior judge reversed the decision. Banks was exonerated after investigators discovered the acquaintance Wanetta Gibson has fabricated the story.

Gibson was not only the architect of sending Banks to the prison but also received $1.5 million in a civil suit filed against the Long Beach School Unified District.

“There are no words in any language, no gesture in any culture that can explain or describe what I have been through,” said Banks shortly after his case’s dismissal. “I hope my story brings light to a major flaw in the judicial system. It is time for wrongful convictions to be addressed in the United States.”

The reversal of the decision was won by the California Innocence Project, which took the new evidence back to Judge Mark C. Kim, who had presided over the original case.

Banks leaned against the counsel table and sobbed during a short court hearing Thursday morning where a prosecutor conceded the case.

“Cases like Brian’s are the reason I do the work I do,” said Banks’ attorney, Justin Brooks, the director of the Innocence Project and a professor at California Western School of Law. “I’m grateful to the Los Angeles district attorney’s office for reviewing the evidence and joining us in seeking to end this injustice.”