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Facebook took him from convicted rapist to exonerated free man and today a jet took him from Los Angeles and an appearance on the Jay

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Brian Banks Arrives for Seahawks Tryout, Tells Leno of Rape Reversal, Facebook 'Friend' (Vid)

lenobanks.jpg
Facebook took him from convicted rapist to exonerated free man and today a jet took him from Los Angeles and an appearance on the Jay Leno show to Seattle and a tryout with the Seahawks. But Brian Banks hasn't played football in ten years, nor does he fly often: "I haven't ? in 15 years!!" he tweeted this morning from LAX. "And have only done it once... Respect your freedom!! #cherishTheSmallThings we're off!"

Banks told Leno on last night's NBC Tonight Show the details of being falsely accused of rape when he was a 16-year-old Long Beach high school star linebacker in 2002. At 17, though he said he did nothing more than a kiss a girl in a school stairwell, he was facing a 40-year sentence if convicted. His attorney persuaded him to plead guilty to kidnapping and rape, and he served just over five years in prison. He was released on five years probation, facing a doubtful future as ex-con and washed-up football player. Then last year:

"The accuser contacted you on Facebook?" asked Leno. "Tell us about that."

I was online, researching a job, trying to find some kind of work, and doing my usual check of Facebook, and got a Friend request. I clicked on it, and it was this girl's name and face and I immediately slammed down the laptop and I was just taken aback. I couldn't believe it was her, I actually didn't believe it was her. I thought it was somebody playing some kind of sick joke. And I remember just gettin' on my knees and praying to God and just asking Him, if this is her, and she's actually reaching out to me, then if there's an opportunity for the truth to be heard - there's an opportunity for me to somehow get my life back through this - and I'm asking God to help me play my cards right.

OK, so what happened? She wanted to meet with you?

Yeah, she was really adamant about wanting to reconnect and, in her words, "Let bygones be bygones."

Banks agreed to meet and had a family member, a private detective, record it. The onetime victim, whose family had sued the school district over the alleged rape and won $1.5 million in damages, admitted on tape that her story was false.

Aided by the California Innocence Project, Banks subsequently sought reversal of his conviction, which was granted May 24 by the same judge who sent him to prison.

"Let's get to the happy part," said Leno. "You got a tryout with the Seahawks."

"Yeah!" said Banks, wearing a sweatshirt with the Innocence Project logo. The audience, sitting so long in rapt silence, erupted in cheers.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who had once offered Banks a football scholarship to USC, was motivated to extend a similar offer to play for the Hawks, and Banks will begin his tryouts - closed to the media - today at the Hawks' quarters in Renton. He may also work out for several other teams later.

It could be a fairy tale ending if Banks winds up in the NFL. He never played in college, and has been out of football for a decade. He's been training only since October, but has trimmed down in twice-a-day workouts in Long Beach. He stands just over 6 feet tall, weighs around 240, and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

Carroll admits the odds are long, but "I'm excited for him," the coach said.

"I've talked to him a couple of times this week leading up to this. He's really excited about the opportunity, very serious about it. And I think the way he came across was special for what he's been through and just gave me more confidence that we're doing the right thing by giving him this opportunity."

 
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