Lots of tears in the courthouse in Long Beach on Thursday. After almost ten years, five of them spent in prison, once-promising high school football player Brian Banks was officially exonerated of the rape charge he pleaded no contest to as a sixteen-year-old, in a bid to avoid a longer sentence. The childhood friend who accused him, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook last year and admitted on tape that she had made up the rape allegation. After Banks got help from the Innocence Project, Los Angeles County prosecutors moved to clear the record. "It's not our job to maintain a conviction at any cost," Deputy Dist. Atty. Brentford Ferreira said. "It's our job to do justice." The final act in court today took all of 30 seconds.
Banks, who had played at Polytechnic High in Long Beach and says had a scholarship offer from USC at the time, will be removed from the state's sex offender registry. Authorities also removed a tracking device he had worn since getting out of prison almost five years ago. "There are no words in any language, no gesture in any culture that can explain or describe what I have been through," Banks said after court. "I hope my story brings light to a major flaw in the judicial system. It is time for wrongful convictions to be addressed in the United States."
Gibson has reportedly recanted her recant. Her family had already received a $1.5 million settlement from the Long Beach school district for the rape that didn't happen. Prosecutors said it's unlikely she will be charged with a crime.
Nick Ut of the AP bureau in Los Angeles was in the courtroom and posted his photo on Facebook.