At age 16, Brian Banks had been a popular student at Polytechnic High in Long Beach, a football player with numerous scholarship offers. He verbally accepted an offer to attend the University of Southern California when Wanetta Gibson, then 15 years old, claimed Banks had raped her when he accompanied her on-campus.
"We went into an area on campus that is known as a makeout spot, we kissed, we groped we touched, but we never had sex. We ended things on a good note. I went back to class, by the end of the day I was in custody," he said
The star athlete's attorney encouraged Banks to make a plea deal. "She told me I was a big black teenager and no jury would believe anything I said," said Banks. Gibson collected $1.5 million after suing the school over lack of safety on campus. Banks spent five years in prison and five years on parole, finally reaching out to California Project Innocence.
But, the case turned when the alleged victim contacted him through Facebook asking to be his friend. Saying she wanted to make “let bygones by bygones” the Long Beach woman later met up with Banks and confessed that she lied about the rape and would help him clear his name. But when push came to shove, she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she would have had to return that $1.5 million.
Banks arranged for a second meeting and secretly recorded her as she again admitted that she didn't want to have to give back the money, an act which eventually led to the rape conviction being wiped from Banks' record.
"I got on my knees and I prayed to God. If there is an opportunity for me to find some way of proving my innocence by communicating with this person, I asked God to help me play my cards right," said Banks. “My only dream was to be free and to have the same opportunity as everyone here…this is all that matters to me today, my family and my freedom, that's it."
Banks continues to train for what he hopes will be a future chance at a football career.