PUBLISHED: 15:08 EST, 24 May 2012 | UPDATED: 15:09 EST, 24 May 2012
A high school football star who was once one of the most highly-sought players in the country has had a rape charge against him dismissed after his accuser admitted it had never happened.
Brian Banks, 26, who spent six years behind bars in California, collapsed in sobs during a court hearing as a prosecutor quickly conceded the decade-old case and moved for a dismissal.
‘There are no words in any language, no gesture in any culture that can explain or describe what I have been through,’ said Banks. ‘I hope my story brings light to a major flaw in the judicial system.’
Freed: A one-time promising football star, Brian Banks, weeps after his rape conviction was dismissed in court. He was just 16 when a childhood friend accused him of kidnapping and raping her at school
It came after the woman who accused him, Wanetta Gibson, added him as a friend on Facebook when he left prison with a tag. In a message, she explained she wanted to ‘let bygones be bygones’.
Banks’s lawyer, Justin Brooks, told KPCC that Gibson and Banks met and she was caught on video saying there there had been no kidnap and no rape, and would help him clear his record.Yet she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors as she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment she won after her mother brought a suit against Long Beach Schools.
She was quoted as telling Banks: ‘I will go through with helping you but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back.’
Relief: Banks with his mother, Leomia Myers. He served six years in prison for the rape he did not commit
New start: Banks, with his attorneys Justin Brooks and Alissa Bjerkhoel, after the charges are dismissed. It comes after the accuser contacted him to say the rape did not happen
A life shattered: Banks had been recruited by colleges and offered scholarships before the accusation
Banks was jailed after Gibson accused him of rape in 2002, when he was just 16 and being heavily recruited by a number of colleges, including USC, which had offered him a scholarship.
He was on the way to the school office to talk about his college applications when he bumped into Gibson, a fellow student, and they went to a stairwell to make out, Brooks told KPCC.
He explained that Banks said something to upset Gibson and they parted on bad terms. She later accused him of kidnapping her, dragging her across the school and raping her in the stairwell.
Investigators tested her but found no physical evidence of rape, Brooks said. Banks maintained they had not had sex and all sexual contact had been consensual.
Remorse: Wanetta Gibson, pictured, contacted Banks to say he had not raped her – but would not admit it to prosecutors as she feared she would have to pay back $1.5 million won in a case against the school
Scene: Gibson had claimed Banks had kidnapped her while at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, before raping her. In fact, they never had sex
Yet his then lawyer encouraged the promising student to plead no contest to the kidnap and rape charges, warning Banks he could get 41 years to life in prison if convicted.
Expecting he would serve just 18 months instead, he followed the advice and pleaded no contest. He was in prison for six years.
While there, his case was taken on by Brooks, a lawyer who head the California Innocence Project.
‘Brian’s story is so compelling, and his case for innocence so clear, we knew we had to take this on,’ said Justin Brooks. ‘Brian lost a huge part of his life when he was unjustly sent to prison.’
Moving on: Brian Banks, pictured left and right, continues to train for a chance at a football career
Brooks said Banks has remained on probation under electronic monitoring, has had to register as a sex offender and has had trouble getting a job.
After the exoneration on Thursday, Banks added: ‘My only dream in the world is just to be free… For years, I felt like a toy with the switch cut off, sitting on the shelf.’
Banks continues to train for what he hopes will be a future chance at a football career in the NFL.
‘This is a kid who was a superstar,’ Brooks added. ‘He would be playing the NFL now if this hadn’t happened.’