SEATTLE -- Brian Banks had a shot to play for Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll 10 years ago, when Carroll was at USC. When a high school classmate accused him of rape and kidnapping, and his lawyer convinced him to cut a plea deal, those dreams became the nightmare of a young man who knew he was wrongly accused.
After serving five years in prison and five more on parole, Banks recently got an interesting friend request which would put his life back on course. It was from his accuser. All these years later Wanetta Gibson wanted to reconnect.
Gibson and Banks were students together at a Long Beach, California high school. The district paid Gibson’s family $1.5 million dollars to settle a claim surrounding the rape which never happened.
That friend request would be the start of a covert operation orchestrated by L.A. private investigator Freddie Parish designed to snare Gibson in her lie.
Parish knew Banks to be a good kid. His son played ball with him in High School, and remained friends since.
If Banks could lure Gibson to the private eye’s office, they could try and get her to recant her story.
Everything had to go just right. “There is only one chance to get the goods,” Parish said, “You’ve got to make it right the first time.”
The investigator wired his office with a series of spy cameras, one in a plant, the other in a pen. It was all designed to capture whatever was said. The key would be to get Gibson to say it. Say she had made the whole story up. Say she lied.
It all weighed heavily on Parish. “If I let this man down, I would have to live with that the rest of my life,” he said.
Gibson, was reluctant to go public, she said she was afraid she would have to pay back all that money. Banks’ life hung in the balance until the following exchange.
Parish: “Did he rape you?”
Gibson: “No, he did not rape me.”
Parish: “Did he kidnap you?”
For Banks, it was like finding the golden ticket. It was the evidence his legal team would take to a judge. The very same judge which sentenced Banks 10 years earlier set him free. That was just two weeks ago.
Banks walked out of the courthouse a free man. The ankle bracelet which had tracked his life as a parolee, and was an anchor around his life was cut off. Brian Banks had his life back.
In the days that followed the phone seemed to ring non-stop. One call was from the Tonight Show. Jay Leno wanted Banks to be on the show. Another was from Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll, who wanted Banks on a plane to Seattle.
A decade after recruiting Banks to play for USC, Carroll wanted him to come to Seattle to try out for the Seahawks. Other offers have come in over the phone as well. But Carroll called first, and Banks, who never allowed himself to get out of shape, was ready for the shot.
His shot came Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Renton.
“Look where I am,” Banks told reporters. Beaming, “Look where I am today. I thank God for this. This is a blessing,” he said.
Carroll and the other coaches liked what they saw. Banks has been told to report next week for a second try out during mini-camp.
As for Parish, he says he is just glad, “I had a chance to make a difference in a man’s life.”
Banks is not about to waste a moment of it, treasuring his freedom, something only those who have been wrongly stripped of theirs can understand how precious it is.