LONG BEACH (CBS) — Former Long Beach Polytechnic High School football star Brian Banks, who was exonerated of rape charges on May 24, is set to tryout Thursday for the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who headed the University of Southern California to seven consecutive BCS bowl appearances, recruited Banks out of high school. He was a star middle linebacker with a full scholarship to USC, but he was unable to accept the scholarship after he was arrested and charged with sexual assault at the age of 16.
“Here’s a young man who has an opportunity to get a second chance at his dream, and I just think he deserves it,” Carroll said. “We’re going to give him a really good look, a serious look. If we like him, we’re going to try to get him to mini-camp.”
Banks served five years in prison and five years on parole before having his conviction overturned with the help of the California Innocence Project.
“This is what I have dreamed about my entire life,” said Banks. “I am ready to show the NFL what I am capable of doing. I want as many opportunities with as many NFL teams who are willing to give me a shot.”
Five other NFL teams have invited the 26-year-old to try out for the upcoming season.
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.
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.