LONG BEACH (CBS) — A former local football star who once had a full scholarship to USC and dreams of the NFL is fighting to clear his name.
Brian Banks‘ dreams all ended when he was convicted of raping a classmate when he was just 16 years old.
CBS2’s Randy Paige reports on disturbing new evidence which has some legal experts wondering if the rape ever even happened.
Banks was a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School with a full scholarship to USC.
“I’m still aware of how far I have to go to getting my life back,” said Banks, referring to his life as a registered sex offender in comparison to his life before prison.
“I thought I was on top of the world,” Banks, who’s now 26 years old, told CBS2 of his life in high school.
Then came the day that changed Banks life for the worse.
“It’s almost hard to put in words of how one day could turn so fast,” Banks said.
In a recent court filing, Banks said it was just before lunchtime when the sophomore football star and a girl he knew decided to duck into an empty stairwell where they could have some privacy.
“We began making out, we didn’t have sex,” Banks said.
He said a few minutes later, after some heavy petting, the two went back to class.
Later that day, Banks noticed a heavy police presence on campus. Then, he said he saw the girl he had been with come out of the office with police officers.
Banks had never been in trouble with the law before. On that day in July 2001, Bank was under arrest for rape.
“The word ‘rape’ wasn’t even in vocabulary at 16,” Banks said.
The district attorney offered Banks a deal — plead guilty to rape and spend another 18 months in prison, or go to trial and face 41 years to life.
Banks said his defense attorney told him, “‘When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you’re automatically going to be assumed guilty.’ Those are her exact words.”
The terrified teen wanted to speak to his mother. He was told he had no time and that he had ten minutes to decide.
“I sat there and I cried. And I asked questions and I asked why and I cried. Eighteen months sounded way better than 41 years to life,” Banks said.
Banks pleaded no contest to rape and was sentenced to six years in state prison.
Banks’ new attorney, California Innocence Project Director Justin Brooks, said hospital records show the alleged victim said Brian left his DNA evidence inside her. However, according to lab results, not a single molecule of his DNA was recovered from the victim or her clothing.
“So, Brian’s story is the only one that makes sense,” Brooks said.
The alleged victim was even caught on tape saying Banks was innocent, too.
“So, he didn’t rape you in any way?” an interviewer asks.
“No,” she responds.
In 2011, nine years after his conviction, Banks said he received a friend request on Facebook from the girl who accused him of the violent rape.
“I remember closing the laptop real quick and thinking — what did I just see?” Banks said.
Banks asked his accuser to meet him at a private investigator’s office to tell her version of what happened that day. To his astonishment, she showed up.
The investigator asked her, “Did he force you to have intercourse or anything like that?”
She responded, “No.”
The alleged victim said at 15 and 16 years old the two were young, inexperienced and curious.
“So, it was just like a petting thing, you guys are kissing and making out pretty heavily?” the investigator asked.
“Yeah,” she replied.
The woman said a female security guard saw her as they were leaving their make-out session:
“She was like, ‘Well, what were you guys doing?’ So, I was like, ‘Well, we was just down there having fun.’ And she was like, ‘Did you want to?’ And I’m like we were young and curious so yeah but she’s like, ‘Why are you sad?’ I’m like, I wasn’t said like, crying, so she just told me like, ‘Oh, he raped you.’ I never once said that word…”
Throughout the interview, the alleged victim said the rape never happened.
The investigator can be heard asking, “Did he rape you?”
She replied, “No, he did not rape me.”
“Did he kidnap you?”
If she was telling the truth she could stand to lose, by her own account, a lot of money.
Banks accuser received a $1.5 million settlement for the Long Beach Unified School District after her mother sued the district for lack of security at the time of the alleged rape.
The alleged victim can be heard in the video saying, “I mean, 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.”
CBS2 was unable to locate Banks’ accuser at her reported address but contacted her over the phone.
She said she was raped and that she lied in this interview because, she claimed, Brian Banks offered her a $10,000 bribe.
Banks said this latest accusation doesn’t make sense and that he has a dollar and some change left to his name.
“The video is disgusting, it gives you goosebumps, to see someone who took someone’s life over a lie,” Banks said.
The district attorney’s office declined an on-camera interview, saying its policy is not to many any comments on cases that are under review.
A former deputy district attorney was willing to offer his assessment of the case against Banks.
“I wouldn’t have filed a charge, I would have rejected it,” said Steve Meister, a former L.A. County sex crimes prosecutor who worked in the same office that prosecuted Brian Banks.
“To me, it goes back to the DNA evidence and her inconsistent statements about what happened. The D.A. never should have filed this case and they should drop it now,” Meister said.
While his case drags on, Banks spends most of his time at the gym.
Determined to keep his NFL dreams alive, Banks said he is in the best shape of his life. but he said the tracking bracelet around his ankle serves as a constant reminder that he’s been living the life of a convicted rapist ever since he was 16 years old. Now, at 26, he’s still trying to clear his name.
“You have no education background, you have no work experience and you’re expected to live a normal life. You’re expected to come out here and get a job and act as if you never were wrongfully accused of a crime you didn’t do,” Banks said.
Banks said life as a sex offender is like living in a cell made of glass — you can see the world outside but it’s always just out of reach.
He said his only dream today is to be free.