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Former high school football standout exonerated in rape case

May 24, 2012 | 11:15 am


A former Long Beach high school football star convicted of raping a classmate a decade ago had his conviction dismissed Thursday after his accuser recanted her story.

Brian Banks trembled with sobs after a brief hearing in which prosecutors said they had no objection to his conviction being reversed. His mother and girlfriend, seated in the courtroom, let out cries of joy.

"My only dream in the world is just to be free," Banks said at a post-hearing news conference, his eyes red from crying, his face frozen in disbelief.

Banks was a 17-year-old college football prospect when, in 2002, a classmate accused him of kidnapping and raping her. Banks maintained the sex was consensual, but his lawyer suggested he take a plea deal rather than having the "he said-she said" case go to trial.

Banks pleaded no contest to one count of forcible rape, was incarcerated for about six years and had to register as a sex offender.

In a movie-worthy twist, his former accuser got in touch with him via Facebook after he left prison. The two eventually met in person.

According to court papers, she admitted to him she lied but later refused to tell prosecutors the same thing lest she have to give back the $1.5 million she and her family won in a civil suit against Long Beach schools.

But based on the new evidence, the California Innocence Project took on Banks' case.


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-- Ashley Powers in Long Beach

Photo: Brian Banks is overcome with emotion during a hearing in which prosecutors said they had no objection to his conviction being reversed. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times