LONG BEACH (CBS) — A judge Thursday overturned the rape conviction of former Long Beach Polytechnic High School football star Brian Banks, who served more than five years in prison.
His alleged victim has recanted her accusation, according to Banks’ attorneys.
Banks, now 26, sobbed after Long Beach Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim granted the defense’s motion to throw out his conviction.
“My only dream in the world was to just be free and to have the same opportunity as everybody here,” said Banks, wearing a black sweatshirt with the word “Innocent” on it.
“I feel like anything is possible,” he said. “It’s proven today by me getting my freedom back. I feel like this is just the first step to re-inventing my life, so the sky is the limit for me.”
Banks was 16 years old when he was arrested and charged with rape. In 2003, he was convicted and sentenced to six years in state prison but had always maintained his innocence.
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.
Years later, in two videotaped conversations, the alleged victim repeatedly said the rape never happened.
Banks’ accuser also 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.
Banks was a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School with a full scholarship to USC. He said he is doing everything he can to keep his NFL dreams alive.
“I’m still aware of how far I have to go to getting my life back,” said Banks.