- Brian Banks, 27, will participate in Atlanta’s offseason workouts with a chance to resume his football career
- He played with the Las Vegas Locomotives last year shortly after he was exonerated
- Cleared of all charges in May 2012 after decade-long rape and kidnap case
- Victim had contacted him on Facebook to say it never happened
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER and ASSOCIATED PRESS
PUBLISHED: 12:32 EST, 3 April 2013 | UPDATED: 16:53 EST, 3 April 2013
Brian Banks has officially been given another chance at football glory after signing with the Atlanta Falcons – 11 years after he was falsely convicted of rape and kidnapping charges.
The former Southern Cal recruit’s dream was derailed when he was convicted of rape and kidnapping charges at age 17.
The linebacker will participate in Atlanta’s offseason workouts with a chance to resume his career.
Banks, now 27, has been trying to get back into football since he was cleared on May 12, 2012, of a rape conviction.
Banks tweeted today: ‘I feel good this morning.’
The Falcons are the first NFL team to sign Banks, but he has had chances with other teams, including the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks.
He took part in the Seahawks’ minicamp last June following workouts in Kansas City and San Diego.
Banks was 16 and had a scholarship offer from USC when a Long Beach Poly high school classmate accused him of the rape.
He spent five years in jail and five years on probation.
The woman recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name after he was out of prison.
That helped lead to the conviction being overturned by a California court and Banks’ record cleared.
Banks has become a spokesman for the California Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused.
Banks is expected to be there when the Falcons hold their first offseason workout on April 22.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement: ‘We are pleased to have Brian join our team. We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then.
Four months after he was cleared of the charges, the linebacker signed with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.
Banks was 16 and had just been offered a scholarship to USC when Wanetta Gibson accused him of sexual assault and kidnapping in 2002.
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, his attorney Justin Brooks said.
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.
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 – and was put behind bars for nearly six years – but he never lost sight of his NFL dream.
He told ESPN last year that he has been seriously training since October 2011, saying: ‘After all I’ve been through these last 10 years, I can still do some things that will impress you.’
He was exonerated in May after Gibson added him as a friend on Facebook when he left prison with a tag a few months earlier. In a message, she explained she wanted to ‘let bygones be bygones.’
Brooks said his client met Gibson and caught her 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 $1.5million payment she won after her mother brought a suit against Long Beach Schools.
Freed: Once a standout football star, Brian Banks, pictured weeping after his rape conviction was dismissed last year, was just 16 when a classmate accused him of kidnapping and raping her
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.’
The Los Angeles Times also reported that Gibson had been worried the admission would affect her relationship with her two young children.
Banks said he would not pursue legal action against his accuser, and Los Angeles prosecutors have said it is unlikely Gibson will be charged with making false accusations.
After the exoneration, 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.’
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 $1.5million won in a case against the school