Nokyoung Xayasane
May 25, 2012

High School Football Star Cleared of Rape — A Decade Later

Yesterday was a liberating experience for Brian Banks. The former high school football star has finally been cleared of sexual assault charges–ten years later. The catch: it took our favorite social networking site to make it happen.

At the age of 16, Banks was being courted by college football recruiters, but things took a devastating turn for the promising athlete. After visiting the ‘make-out spot’ with 15-year-old Wanette Gibson, Banks was promptly put into custody for rape charges.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete was told by his attorney to take the plea bargain. “She told me I was a big black teenager,” says Banks, “and no jury would believe anything I said.” There was no DNA evidence, and it was essentially her word against his.

Banks took the deal and spent five years in prison and another five years on probation. He was also listed as sex offender.

It wasn’t until Gibson friended Banks on Facebook, that things began to unravel for the accuser. Banks was bewildered that Gibson would want to have any contact with him, but saw it as an opportunity to clear his name. “I stopped what I was doing,” he said, “and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right.”

In a Facebook message, Gibson wanted to let “bygones be bygones.” Banks set up a couple of meetings with Gibson. She admitted to the former football star that she lied about the rape, but would not talk to prosecutors, so Banks secretly taped their conversation. The evidence was presented to a California courtroom, and Banks was finally exonerated on Thursday.

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Banks was calm and reflective about his ordeal. When asked if he had thoughts of revenge, he had this to say: “It’s easy to have those feelings initially when you first hear the story. I’ve been dealing with this now for 10 years, and I’ve had my moments where I was very angry, and very vengeful. But I know it was best for me to try and move forward in a positive manner, and for the betterment of me. It hurts no one but myself to hang onto that type of negative energy, and it will only keep me in a stagnant position.”

Talk about a lesson in forgiveness. Banks is clearly a humbling example of human decency.