Talk about a lesson in forgiveness.
Former California high school football star Brian Banks bears no grudge against Wanetta Gibson, even though her false accusations against him 10 years ago killed his promising NFL career, landed him five years in prison and branded him a sex offender.
Gibson has since stepped forward, first admitting to Banks over Facebook – where she reached out by trying to friend him – that she had lied about his kidnapping and raping her when he was 16 and she was 15. She then admitted before a private investigator that the story was a complete fabrication.
On Thursday, Brian Banks, 26, got his freedom and his life back.
Sounding calm and philosophical, Banks, who never let go of his NFL dream, said on Friday's Today show that he's "happy to be free now, happy to clear my name, but also very much in a reflective state, and just remembering everything I've been through to get to this point."
Consequences and ResponsibilityAsked if there are any consequences his accuser – who declined to appear or comment – should face for her lying and the damage it caused him, Banks seemed to surprise host Matt Lauer when he replied, "You know, I haven't given it much thought. I do believe that everyone should be responsible for their actions. If that action warrants some type of consequence, then I feel that ... it's justified."
No thoughts of revenge, he was asked. (Gibson, it is reported, collected $1.5 million after suing their high school over a lack of safety on campus.)
"No," said Banks. "It's easy to have those feelings initially when you first hear the story. I've been dealing with this now for 10 years, and I've had my moments where I was very angry, and very vengeful. But I know it was best for me to try and move forward in a positive manner, and for the betterment of me. It hurts no one but myself to hang onto that type of negative energy, and it will only keep me in a stagnant position."
Took Plea DealNBC News reported that there was no DNA testing and no witnesses – only Banks's word against Gibson's when he was brought to trial.
In an interview, Banks said his attorney advised him back then, "Either go into that courtroom in front of a jury – you're a big, black teenager – they're going to automatically assume you're guilty, and you'll be facing 41 years to life. What do you want to do?" He took the plea deal, for a lighter sentence.
And now? Having lost out on an all-expenses-paid scholarship to USC a decade ago, Banks said Friday he's still ready to play for the NFL.
"Give me an opportunity and let me show you ... what I can produce," said Banks. "I think that any team that gives me an opportunity will be really impressed with what I can do, despite all of what I've been through these past 10 years."