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Friday, June 1, 2012

Cleared Of Rape Conviction, Ex-Football Star Starts Over

Brian Banks weeps in court after his kidnap-rape conviction was dismissed May 24 in Long Beach, Calif. after serving five years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. (AP)

Brian Banks weeps in court after his kidnap-rape conviction was dismissed May 24 in Long Beach, Calif. He had been out of prison for five years, but last month his name was finally cleared. (AP)

When he was 17-years-old, high school football linebacker Brian Banks went to jail for a rape he did not commit. He served his five years, and it took another five before he was able to get his name cleared. Last month, a California court dismissed his conviction after his accuser admitted she’d lied.

Back in 2003, Banks agreed to plead no contest to rape charges brought by a female friend because his lawyer told him the other option was worse.

“My lawyer at the time told me… I’d face 41 years to life if I take this thing to trial.  And I’d be viewed as a big black teenager by the jury and I’d automatically be assumed guilty,” he told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Banks now has a new lawyer, who helped him clear his name after his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, admitted to him in a private conversation, captured on video, that she had lied.

When he went to jail, Banks had to give up a football scholarship to University of Southern California, and what he hoped would be a promising NFL career. Now Banks is going to give his NFL hopes another shot. He reportedly has a tryout lined up with the Seattle Seahawks and other teams have expressed interest.

“It’s a lot to ask for… but… I’ve prepared for this day in and day out,” he said.


  • Brian Banks, former high school football player
  • Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law

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  • Overton

    This injustice is so hard to read about.  This young man with a promising career had his life and career derailed by a false accusation which is bad enough but follow that by the horrors of a failed  legal system (though ours may be one of the best it is still NOT a justice system.)  That there was no forensic evidence is abominable.  

    I pray that there though hard work and raw talent this (still) young man has the great fortune of realizing his dream of playing in the NFL.

  • Ronnie Drew

    It’s great that NPR is giving some credibility to this issue. It’s so depressing to see mainstream news and blogs like Jezebel openly mock and discredit mens’ rights issues. A common false dichotomy is that if you  are for mens’ rights, then you are a misogynist. This is infuriating.

    NPR ftw.

  • KSDL

    I ache for this man’s tragedy. But I listen to Here and Now frequently and I don’t hear any stories about women who are actual victims of rape. I could fill your program every day for a year or more with stories of women who were attacked by men that were just like Brian Banks: upstanding, well-known, otherwise kind to people, came from good families and had bright futures. Rapists aren’t boogie men. They are normal, average guys who make a terrible decision. The only difference being that unlike Brian, these men are guilty and because stories of false accusation get all the attention (in an equal world, I believe that Brian’s story would deserve that attention, but we don’t live in that world) those victims don’t get justice.

    Sadly, if Brian had been white, his attorney would’ve advised him to go to trial in a heartbeat because only 16% of rapists are convicted (USDoJ) and that’s 16% of the extremely small number of rapes that are reported to police. Rape is a social problem loaded down with misogyny and racism and that MUST be a part of the discussion if we’re ever going to solve the problem.

    If we heard more stories from actual rape survivors, we would understand the extent to which their bright futures have also been destroyed.  I would like for this program to be a place where these stories are told so that we can ALSO hear Brian’s story without prejudice. 

    • My Son’s Father

      Please, stick to the subject.  This story exposes  the horrible crime and injustice of the legal system which took 10 years from the life of an innocent human being, and nearly took it permanently.   The story brings to light that we live in a system in which the system which is supposed to protect the innocent can be used against the innocent for financial gain.  Yes, rape is a horrible crime, but tell me how hearing stories of rape would at all mittigate the act of falsely accusing someone of rape.  Forgive me, but rape victims are not sent to prison for decades or put on sex offender lists when they are released. 

      Last fall, a girl in my son’s high school falsely accused him and one of his friends of raping her.  Fortunately, her story was chronologically and logistically impossible in much the same way as in Brian’s situation.  Both boys are athletes and straight a students.  If this girl were a better liar, his story would be my son’s story.  Yet this girl who would have so easily destroyed two men’s lives worse than if she has shot them will pay no price and will certainly do it again.

      The laws and their enforcement must change

  • Caryn A. May

    In the Brian Banks story – I am curious about his accusor who eventually told Brian, on video tape, that her accusation was a lie. There was a brief reference in this morning’s story to the fact that the accusor, Winetta Gibson, has a civil law suit in this case. What?!?! I won’t be able to sleep until I discover what could possilby be the complaint in any suit SHE would bring in this case.  How in the world was this lying girl injured?!?!

    • Robin

      The Gibson family won a civil suit against the school where she alleged the attack took  place.

      She won, but that was years ago.

      Brian Banks said he hasn’t even thought about a countersuit, but news accounts also say
      the money is now gone, and the young woman is now a single mom with no assets.



  • Beez

    She should be imprisoned and forced to, at minimum, pay his college tuition. This happens ALOT. I know two people it happened to, but unfortunately, they were never exonerated and now have been forced into living their entire life as ex-con “rapists”.  Their lives were literally ruined by those two spiteful individuals who lied.

  • MAX


    Thanks Robin for this story. 
    I understand that due to our beliefs, bias and experiences two persons
    can read or hear a story and have very opposing view points.  However, I feel that the intent of this story
    is to highlight the blatant racial disparity within the justice systems and the
    very real problems associated with the plea bargaining of those courts.  (“Innocent until proven guilty.”  Whatever happened to that.) 

    Whether the crime in question were drug sales
    or manufacturing, robbery, assault, arson, murder or jay-walking, it is
    extremely obvious that not all need be vetted with regards to their guilt or
    innocence.  From Brian’s account of the
    offer presented by council, both seemed irrelevant and his fate respectively
    would be imprisonment.  I believe that
    anyone with a son, brother, father or friend would want “due process” for their
    loved one rather than a “lock’em-up, throw away the key and asks questions
    later or never” attitude.

    It is
    reprehensible to believe that in the “land of the free” a young man can be
    stockpiled with actual criminals until he is 58 years old for something that
    never occurred.  (California is notorious
    for its issue of prison overcrowding and corrections is a huge industry.)  Perceivably, those of less socioeconomic status
    will fall victim to this on-going trend. 

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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