In August of 2019, the film Brian Banks was released. It portrays the true story of Brian Banks, whose wrongful conviction nearly destroyed his dream of playing in the NFL.
Wrongful Conviction & Imprisonment
Brian Banks was a rising star on the high school football scene. He had even committed to playing at USC after graduation. However, in the summer of 2002, Brian was charged with raping a classmate. She had accused him of forcibly raping her on their high school campus.
Brian, only 16 years old, was facing a possible 41 years to life prison sentence. Yet it was Brian’s word against hers. Upon advice of counsel, he pled no contest to the charges. Then, he was sentenced to five years’ incarceration, followed by five years of probation. Brian would also have to register as a sex offender for life.
Exoneration After Wrongful Conviction
In 2011, Brian’s accuser reached out to him on Facebook. The two met and, while in the presence of a private investigator, she admitted to fabricating the story. Unknown to the accuser, Brian had secretly recorded the confession. However, his accuser later refused to tell authorities that she had lied. She had sued the high school where she said the rape took place. And she and her mother had won a $1.5 million settlement against the school district based on the false allegations.
Unfortunately, the accuser’s confession was not admissible in court. Yet Brian was represented by the California Innocence Project, who didn’t give up. Additional investigation allowed Brian’s attorneys to put together additional evidence showing Brian’s innocence. Then, in 2012, the district attorney’s office dismissed all charges against Brian. He was also no longer labeled a sex offender.
Thereafter, the school district sued Brian’s accuser to recoup the money she had been awarded. In 2013, it won a $2.6 million judgment against the woman.
Brian went on to tryout with several NFL teams, and played four pre-season games with the Atlanta Falcons. Later, in 2014, he was hired to join the NFL Department of Operations. Brian now works as a life coach and public speaker, discussing his experiences. And he is also a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform.
The Book & Film
Brian Banks authored a book, What Set Me Free, detailing the true story of his wrongful conviction. It is available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/What-Set-Me-Free-Conviction/dp/1982121319.
Brian Banks, the film about the wrongful conviction, began screenings in limited release last month. You can find showings on the film’s official website at https://bleeckerstreetmedia.com/brianbanks.
- “Freed Clients: Brian Banks,” California Innocence Project. Available at: https://californiainnocenceproject.org/read-their-stories/brian-banks/ (last accessed Sept. 3, 2019).
- Jeannette Catsoulis, “‘Brian Banks’ Review: Falsely Accused, and Fighting Back,” New York Times (Aug. 8, 2019). Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/movies/brian-banks-review.html (last accessed Sept. 3, 2019).