Former football standout Brian Banks reveals how an innocence kiss in a known makeout spot ruined his life for years and how his lawyer helped orchestrate it by telling him an all-white jury would convict him because “he was a big Black teenager.”
When Banks was 16 years old, he went to the spot with a young woman he found attractive. He’d known her since middle school and one day, they decided to go to the secluded location. “We went there. We kissed and we made out,” Banks tells the Innocence Project. “We never had sex. By the end of the day, I was being accused of sexual assault.”
There was no evidence, no DNA, no witnesses and no rape, Banks said. There was no physical evidence whatsoever, but he was still arrested in 2002 and his football scholarship to the University of Southern California — and his future — was instantly taken away from him.
“I was facing 41 years-to-life at this time. Before I could get to trial, my lawyer pulled me into an interview room the day of jury selection at courtroom building,” Banks recalls. “And she sat me down with this huge grin on her face as I sat on the other side of the glass and she began to tell me that she came up with this amazing deal with the district attorney’s office … That was that if I pled no contest to one count of sexual assault that I would undergo a 90-day observation at Chino state prison.”
The deal required Banks to be interviewed by a counselor and a psychologist to determine whether or not he would receive probation or six years in prison. Before his lawyer approached him with the plea deal, he was initially offered a 25-year sentence that was lowered to 18 years and then negotiated down to nine before finally settling at six.
Banks recalled his lawyer pressing him to not select a jury and fight the rape charge. She said, “I can guarantee you that you’re going to select a jury that’s going to be an all-white jury and they’re going to find you guilty because you’re are big, Black teenager.”
Banks served five years in prison, was forced to register as a sex offender and had to wear a GPS tracking device around his ankle.
In 2012, Banks’ accuser contacted him on Facebook and confessed to fabricating the entire story against him. The California Innocence Project presented this new information to Judge Mark C. Kim, who reversed Banks’ conviction. His accuser, Wanetta Gibson, was ordered to repay $2.6 million in damages related to the $1.5 million she received from the Long Beach School District in a 2007 lawsuit.
Banks is now a prominent activist fighting for those with similar cases.