Brian Banks, a former California high school football standout, has been cleared of a rape and kidnapping conviction that derailed his life more than 10 years ago.
Banks, who is 26 today, was just 17 when his classmate, Wanetta Gibson – who he’d known since middle school – told authorities he sexually assaulted her.
“We went into an area on campus that is known as a makeout spot, we kissed, we groped we touched, but we never had sex,” Banks told ABC, recalling the incident. “We ended things on a good note. I went back to class, by the end of the day I was in custody.”
At the time, the star middle linebacker had been awarded a full scholarship to the University of Southern California along with several other Division I schools, including Michigan State University and University of Kansas.
After being charged with rape and kidnapping in 2002, Banks took a plea deal on the advice of his lawyer to avoid spending the rest of his life behind bars despite knowing he was innocent. His accuser, Wanetta Gibson, collected $1.5 million after suing the school over lack of safety on campus.
Banks was sentenced to six years, ruining his football career and was forced to wear an ankle bracelet after being released on parole in 2008.
While the Bank’s future seemed bleak — another potential star athlete ruining their life with one bad decision — the unbelievable happened February 28, 2011, when Gibson requested his friendship on Facebook.
“Why would you friend request me?” Banks asked Gibson over Facebook. “The reply was, ‘I figured you and I could let bygones be bygones. I was immature then, but I’m much more mature now.’”
CBS reports Gibson then met with Banks in person and pledged to help him clear his name, but she was reluctant to reiterate her story to prosecutors because she didn’t want to give back the $1.5 million civil judgment awarded to her.
Despite Gibson’s hesitance, Banks was able to secretly record her admitting his innocence, which was enough for a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to reverse the conviction.
“To finally have my freedom back, I couldn’t ask for more,” said Banks, adding he he no feelings of revenge towards his accuser.
MSNBC has more on Brian Banks’ false rape allegations, exoneration and plans for the future in the video below: