Once a highly-touted high school football recruit, 26-year-old Brian Banks got an NFL tryout this week. But he's not just another gridiron grinder clinging to the fringes of an NFL dream -- Banks served five years in prison and was on parole for another five years after accepting a plea deal 10 years ago on charges of rape and kidnapping.
Banks was officially exonerated last month in California Superior Court. The key to his rapid reversal of fortune? Facebook and a hidden video camera that caught his accuser admitting to making-up the story.
[More from Mashable: Skaterboarder Hit by Truck Flies Two House Lengths [VIDEO]]
Banks was a hot prospect linebacker as a Long Beach high school player, recruited by elite college programs including University of Southern California. Then a classmate accused him of raping her in a school stairwell in 2002.
Banks insisted he was innocent, but eventually took the plea deal rather than risk a possible prison sentence of more than 40 years.
[More from Mashable: How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter [INFOGRAPHICS]]
Nearly a decade later, an interesting thing happened, and Banks finally had a chance to prove his innocence once and for all. He had already served five years, registered as a sex offender and was wearing a GPS device that tracked his every move while on parole.
Banks' accuser and alleged victim sent him a friend request on Facebook about a year ago, saying she wanted to "let bygones be bygones," NBC Los Angeles reports. Banks then called private investigator and longtime acquaintance Freddie Parish to figure out what to do next.
The plan? Invite the accuser, named Wanetta Gibson, to Parish's office for a hatchet-burying chat, while rigging the office with hidden video and audio recording equipment.
Gibson came to the office to meet. As cameras secretly recorded the interaction, she told Banks and Parish her 2002 allegation that landed Banks in prison "just wasn't true at all," according to NBC Los Angeles. The next day, she came to Parish's office again and further recanted her accusations.
With the confession caught on video, Banks' lawyers had all they needed. His conviction was overturned on May 24. No more parole. No more GPS.
Had Gibson never accused Banks of rape, he may have gone to play college football for USC coach Pete Carroll. Carroll now coaches the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, and invited Banks for a tryout with the team this week. He reportedly performed well and will return for a minicamp next week.
Despite spending five years in prison, missing out on college and potentially losing millions and millions of NFL contract dollars, Banks has managed to maintain a positive outlook.
"Look where I am today," he told The Seattle Times. "I thank God for this. This is a blessing. The last thing I want to do is be bitter."
Image courtesy of cmannphoto
This story originally published on Mashable here.
- Crime & Justice
- Brian Banks