Exonerated football player Brian Banks signs with the Atlanta Falcons

Brian Banks lost ten years of his life to a wrongful conviction. Today, he is on his way to NFL stardom

Published April 3, 2013 8:31PM (EDT)


Brian Banks, a high school football player who spent five years in prison and five years on probation for a rape he did not commit, has signed with the Atlanta Falcons nearly one year after his conviction was overturned.

"It's almost impossible to explain, the feeling of not having freedom, to be stripped away of your freedom, of your dignity, the respect you once had," Banks told the Associated Press. "To lose it all and watch the world pass you by as you sit inside a prison cell, knowing you shouldn't be there, knowing you're there because of another person's lies, to lose it all and then get it all back, it's a very humbling, spiritual feeling that you just don't want to take anything for granted."

Banks was 16-years-olds when a fellow classmate accused him of rape.

As Ashley Powers of the Los Angeles Times reported in 2012:

In 2002, a female classmate at Long Beach Poly High accused Banks of rape. He maintained that they fooled around, but that the sexual contact was consensual.

Facing a potential sentence of 41 years to life in prison, Banks took his lawyer's advice and pleaded no contest to one count of forcible rape. He spent more than five years in prison. Meanwhile his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, and her family sued Long Beach schools and received a sizable settlement.

Last year, court papers said, Gibson contacted him via Facebook and agreed to meet with him and a private investigator. In a recorded conversation, she said Banks had not raped her, according to court documents. That set off a chain of events that resulted in a judge throwing out Banks' conviction last week.

Banks told the Associated Press that he "couldn't have asked for a better place to be" than with the Falcons.

"I can't believe this is happening. It's surreal... My journey has been crazy but my journey has been a learning experience that is unlike any other," he added.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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