Unbroken

Published: August 4, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
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Photo Credit: Thomson200

Talented linebacker Brian Banks spent more than five years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Not only was his freedom gone, but his chances at a pro-football contract evaporated after a woman claimed that Banks had raped her.

In a story from KCBS-TV (May 24, 2012), “Banks was 16 years old when he was arrested and charged with rape. In 2003, he was convicted and sentenced to six years in state prison but had always maintained his innocence.

“The district attorney offered Banks a deal — plead guilty to rape and spend another 18 months in prison, or go to trial and face 41 years to life.

“Banks said his defense attorney told him, ‘When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you’re automatically going to be assumed guilty.’ Those are her exact words.”

Banks asked to speak to his mother, but was told that he had only ten minutes to decide.

“I sat there and I cried. And I asked questions and I asked why and I cried. Eighteen months sounded way better than 41 years to life,” Banks said.

“Banks pleaded no contest to rape and was sentenced to six years in state prison.”

According to Fox Sports (Aug. 1), “Banks, a top linebacker prospect in California, lost his chance to play at USC, where Pete Carroll was giving him a scholarship. Instead, Banks spent five years in prison, then came out as a registered sex offender with all of the restrictions that go with it, plus wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.”

However, “Banks’ new attorney, California Innocence Project Director Justin Brooks, said hospital records show the alleged victim said Brian left his DNA evidence inside her. However, according to lab results, not a single molecule of his DNA was recovered from the victim or her clothing.”

In 2012, Banks’ conviction was overturned after his accuser was secretly recorded admitting that she lied.

In August, 2013, the 27-year-old Banks was invited by the Atlanta Falcons to come and try out in Georgia. He played in the preseason, but was eventually cut from the final team selection. Nonetheless, Banks remained positive and grateful for the opportunity, tweeting his fans: #unbroken.

Now, last Friday (Aug. 1), word comes from Banks himself that he has taken a job at the NFL offered by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“I am honored to say I’ve taken an amazing position with the front office of the NFL! God is good! I’m moving to New York.”

According to NFL.com, “The league said Banks will be a manager in the football operations department, and will assist the officiating department on game days.”

In her amazing book, Unbroken, about the life of Olympic runner and World War II survivor Louis Zamperini, author Laura Hillenbrand writes, “Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”

Brian Banks is another role model of unbroken spirit.

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