Brian Banks Signs with Atlanta Falcons

Brian Banks Signs with Atlanta Falcons

Dianne Frazee-Walker

Ten years ago, when Brian Banks was a 16-year-old high school student, his freedom was cut short because of a false allegation.  Banks had just agreed to sign on to play football at Southern Cal because Coach Pete Carroll had his eye on the Long Beach Poly High School star linebacker. Instead, he was signed up as a registered sex offender. Spending the next five years in prison and another five under house arrest was the last thing on his mind. 

Banks was accused of rape and kidnapping by a school classmate he made out with, but claimed he did not have sex. In one afternoon, Bank’s life came crashing down with a rape and kidnapping conviction.

Banks’ biggest supporter throughout his nightmare was his mother, who believed in his innocence enough to sell her house and car to pay for Bank’s defense.

Banks took a plea bargain, pleading no contest to one count in hopes of a lighter sentence because the maximum sentence for his alleged offenses was 41 years. Even though the DNA tests came back negative, the judge threw the book at Banks, and he was sentenced to 41 years.

98% of defendants plead no contest even if they are innocent as opposed to going to trial. Banks’ reason for taking a plea bargain was because he was warned that being a young black male was not to his benefit.

While Banks served five years of his sentence behind bars, he didn’t waste any of his precious time watching the world pass him by from behind prison walls. Banks read every book he could get his hands on while in prison and also learned not to take anything for granted.

After Banks was released from prison, the victim, Wanetta Gibson, who had already settled with the school district for a whopping 1.5 million dollars, decided to come forward with the truth. Banks was still no free man dragging around with an ankle bracelet and not being able to attend his niece’s birthday parties because of his status as a registered sex offender.

Gibson contacted Banks by requesting him as a “friend” on Facebook. Bank responded to Gibson by asking her what her intentions were. Gibson said she just wanted to “hang out” with Banks and “let bygones be bygones.” Banks hired a private investigator and met with Gibson. The private investigator secretly set up hidden cameras at Banks and Gibson’s meeting place. Gibson admitted on camera that Banks did not kidnap or rape her. With the help of the California Innocence Project, new evidence was presented to the court, and Banks was exonerated. He celebrated his new freedom by cutting off his ankle bracelet.

A few days after Banks was finally a free man, he received a phone call from NFL Falcons general manager, Thomas Dimitroff asking for a star linebacker. “That would be me!” proclaimed Banks.

Banks is now being given a second chance to live out his dream of being a NFL football player. When asked if he still held any anger or resentment, he said no, because I need to focus on me now, and that would only hold me back.

Spending time behind bars because of someone’s lies humbled Banks, but losing his dignity and gaining it back has transformed his view of life. Banks says, “I’ve had the opportunity to see both sides of the human spirit. … My journey has been crazy, but my journey has been a learning experience that is unlike any other.”