Exonerated player gets chance with the pros

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Brian Banks

Brian Banks reacts to having his rape and kidnapping conviction dismissed, Long Beach, California (AP Photo)

LONG BEACH (CNS) – A former Long Beach high school football star who spent more than five years behind bars for rape but had his conviction overturned when his accuser recanted her story will get his chance to play professional football, an attorney said today.

Brian Banks, 26, was exonerated in May after a judge in Long Beach agreed to throw out his 2003 conviction for forcible rape involving a girl on the campus of Long Beach Polytechnic High School a year earlier. Banks had dreamed of playing professional football and was expecting to attend USC on a football scholarship when he was arrested.

Although he received some interest from NFL teams since his release — including from former USC coach Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks — Banks went unsigned.

But Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project that fought for his release, said, “On Friday, there will be an announcement in Las Vegas about Brian’s future in football. I am ecstatic that it looks like he will finally get to make his dream of playing football a reality.”

CBS2 reported that Banks has signed a contract with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League. The team is coached by Jim Fassel, the former coach of the NFL’s New York Giants.

Banks, a middle linebacker, was 16 when he was accused of rape on July 8, 2002, and 17 when he pleaded no contest to forcible rape in exchange for a six-year sentence — considerably shorter than the 41-year-to-life term he could have faced if he had gone to trial and been convicted.

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