Man Imprisoned, Cleared of Rape Has NFL Tryout With Seattle Seahawks

Long Beach high school football standout Brian Banks served five years on a rape charge before the accuser recanted her testimony

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    Brian Banks, center, with family members after he was cleared of a rape charge the led to a prison sentence.

    Brian Banks participated in a tryout with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks Thursday, two weeks after San Diego lawyers helped clear a Long Beach high school football standout was of a rape charge for which he served five years in prison.

    He went through drills with coaches at the Seahawks' practice facility Thursday morning. He was offered the opportunity to return to Seahawks mini-camp next week, coach Pete Carroll said.

    Man Imprisoned, Cleared of Rape Has NFL Tryout With Seattle Seahawks

    [LA] Man Imprisoned, Cleared of Rape Has NFL Tryout With Seattle Seahawks
    Long Beach high school football standout Brian Banks served five years on a rape charge before the accuser recanted her testimony. Beverly White reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on June 7, 2012.

    "It was surreal," Banks said. "Two weeks ago, I was a guy who was just sitting inside of his house trying to get through parole."

    Carroll was coaching at the University of Southern California when he recruited Banks, a 6-foot-2, 239-pounder who played linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. The school was among Banks' top choices, which included some of the nation's best football programs.

    Wrongly Convicted Man Speaks Out

    [DGO] Wrongly Convicted Man Speaks Out
    Brian Banks speaks to NBC 7 reporter Brandi Powell about being wrongly accused of rape after the California Innocence Project helped to clear his name.

    But in 2003, Banks' life was derailed when he was convicted of rape.

    "He was once in our sights, knowing he had potential to be a special football player," said Carroll. "Here's a young man who has a second chance at his dream. I just think he deserves it. We're going to give him a real good look."

    Banks, ranked among Rivals.com's top high school football players entering his senior season, pleaded no contest to a charge that he raped another student. He served five years, but was exonerated when the accuser recanted her testimony last month.

    "I am on a plane for the first time in 15 years," Banks, 26, tweeted during the trip Wednesday night to Seattle.

    Banks arrived at the practice facility in Renton, Wash. Thursday morning.

    "Even walking though the whole checking area, taking your shoes off -- I know a lot of people complain about that, but I'm thrilled about it," Banks said.

    On "The Tonight Show" Wednesday night, Banks spoke about his lowpoint -- the conviction -- and the opportunity provided by Carroll. He wore a sweatshirt with a license plate graphic that read, "XONR8."

    "I'm doing great. Just being here is too cool for school," Banks said before pointing out his family in the audience. "

    Banks was 16 when he was accused. He told Jay Leno that he still cannot explain why he was accused.

    "My mom sold her house, sold her car, borrowed a lot of money for a lawyer to represent me," Banks said. "From Day 1, my attorney wanted me to plea to a deal. We kept denying the deals. I've always stood to my innocence.

    "I guess that's just how the system works. They want to entice you with a deal to avoid any type of trial situation."

    Banks watched from a prison cell as his teammates and classmates moved on from high school. He had already spent a year in custody fighting the case when he was told by his lawyer on the day of jury selection to accept a deal or go to trial and face 41 years to life in prison.

    "She told me if I go out there and select this jury, the jury would see me as a big, black teenager and I'd be guilty," he told Leno. "I had asked to speak with my mom, my dad, and I was denied that right. I had 10 minutes to make that decision."

    He was paroled and had to register as a sex offender, meaning he had to wear a tracking device and remain in Los Angeles County.

    "It was humiliating, having this thing around my ankle," Banks said.

    But then the accuser contacted him on Facebook, sending him a friend request.

    "I didn't believe it was her -- I thought it was a sick joke," Banks said.

    She wanted to "let bygones be bygones" and meet with Banks, he said. He contacted a family friend, a private investigator, to set up a meeting.

    When Banks had his proof, an audio recording of the accuser admitting to the false accusation, he immediately contacted an attorney.

    On May 24, he was cleared of the charge.

     

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