County of Conviction: Los Angeles
Convicted of: Rape
Sentence: 6 Years + Lifetime Registered Sex Offender
Years Served: 5 Years, 2 Months
Released: May 24, 2012
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration*: $406,015
*According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office 2018-19 annual costs per CA inmate
(Photos Courtesy of Heidi Cruise)
Years Served: 5
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.
His Wrongful Conviction, Plea Deal, and Exoneration
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.
Brian 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.
His NFL Debut
After the hearing concluded, CIP Director Justin Brooks, in speaking to the press, asked NFL teams to give Brian Banks a chance at football again. Shortly thereafter, Banks received calls from six NFL teams. He tried out with the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers. Pete Carroll, who had once recruited Brian to play at USC back in 2002, invited Brian to the Seattle Seahawks minicamp to try out. Ultimately, Banks did not get signed by any team in 2012.
On September 20, 2012, Brian Banks signed with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL. He played in two games and made a tackle on a kickoff return before the UFL suspended it’s season a month later.
On April 3, 2013, the Atlanta Falcons signed Brian Banks and he began participating in the Falcons’ practices and training camp. Banks made his NFL debut in a preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He made two tackles in the game. He played three additional games before the Falcons released him on August 30, 2013.
Following the 2013 season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hired Brian Banks to work in the NFL’s Department of Operations. Brian worked in the NFL’s newly created replay center and also assisted with the league’s social media. Brian worked for the NFL for a few years in New York before getting transferred to Los Angeles. Eventually, he resigned to pursue public speaking opportunities.
Brian Banks on the Big Screen
In 2017, filming began for a feature film about Brian Banks’ story. The movie, Brian Banks, features Greg Kinnear as Justin Brooks, Aldis Hodge as Banks, and Tiffany Dupont as CIP Attorney Alissa Bjerkhoel. Actors Sherri Shepherd, Morgan Freeman, and Melanie Liburd also star in Brian Banks. Director Tom Shadyac, best known for directing Liar Liar, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bruce Almighty and The Nutty Professor, directed the film. The film closely follows Brian’s road to redemption, including the many legal obstacles he encountered when attempting to gain relief from the courts. While certain aspects have been changed, including the names of some involved in the case, the major story remains the same.
Brian Banks premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) on September 22, 2018. Tickets to the showing sold out so quickly that a second showing, which also sold out, was scheduled for the following day.
The Hollywood Reporter and Variety published glowing reviews of Brian Banks, and it won LAFF’s Audience Award for Fiction Feature Film. On August 9, 2019, Brian Banks will be shown in theaters throughout the U.S.
We hope all of you will see the movie. Check out the Brian Banks movie trailer below: