Brian Banks may yet play in the NFL. But he knows it's a long shot after spending five years in prison on a rape charge for which he was later exonerated. Banks is now set on getting tryouts with pro football teams and has put the tragedy of his jail time behind him, even refusing to want punishment for the woman who falsely accused him. James Brown reports on a once promising high-school football prospect blindsided by injustice in a 60 Minutes story to be broadcast Sunday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Ten years ago, a high school make-out session turned into a nightmare for the football standout at Poly-Tech High School in Long Beach, Calif. The girl Banks was with, Wanetta Gibson, accused him of rape. Persuaded by questionable legal advice, he pleaded guilty to a crime he denied doing in a deal that avoided the possibility of a decades-long sentence. When he got out after nearly five years, he went on Facebook one day and had a shock: His accuser wanted to be "friends."
"I immediately just...froze and I didn't accept the request," he tells Brown. Instead, he began communicating with her and eventually, with the help of a private investigator and a hidden camera, recorded the woman admitting she had not been raped nor kidnapped by Banks. His case was dismissed soon after the tape was brought to the authorities.
It was a moment Banks' mother, Leomia Myers, had been waiting 10 years for. She had sold her house and car to raise money for her son's defense. "I wanted to scream and shout for joy. I just slouched in my chair and cried. I was just so happy, so happy. That he was free, because he wasn't free before," she tells Brown, referring to the monitoring bracelet he had been required to wear as part of his parole agreement. "You're not free when you have an ankle bracelet on your ankle. It was like your shackle."
Back in high school, Banks says he had a verbal agreement with USC Coach Pete Carroll to attend the school and play football for them. After getting out of Chino State Prison, he was in his mid-twenties and hadn't played football in years. The long road back led to a job with a semi-pro football team in Las Vegas, but the team went out of business. An earlier tryout with the Seattle Seahawks, where Carroll now coaches, only underscored his shortcomings.
Asked by Brown whether he has desires to see his false accuser, who won a $1.5 million settlement against the school, punished, he replies, "No, none whatsoever. My main focus has just been on me."
Banks is undaunted. He continues to work to reclaim the skills he lost and he is in contact with several NFL teams in an attempt to try out again for a spot on a pro roster. Regardless of what happens now, he is a free man once again and that's what's important. "If [making the pros] doesn't happen, it doesn't define me. If it does happen, it doesn't define me," he tells Brown.