Monday, April 28, 2014

Exonerated football player guest at Innocence Project dinner

A former high school football star who spent five years in prison after being falsely accused of rape is the special guest at the Illinois Innocence Project’s awards dinner next month.

In 2002, Brian Banks was a 17-year-old high school junior in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif., and had orally committed to continue his football career at the University of Southern California.

But after being accused of kidnapping and rape by a classmate, he spent five years in prison before having his conviction overturned in 2012 after he secretly recorded his accuser admitting that she had made up the rape story.

After his release from prison, Banks tried to resurrect his football career and attended several NFL teams’ mini-camps before signing with Las Vegas of the United Football League. The league suspended its season in October 2012, however, and Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL in spring 2013. He made two tackles in a preseason game before being released by the club on Aug. 30, 2013.

Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, was the attorney who helped exonerate Banks. He will be honored with the Illinois Innocence Project’s Defender of the Innocent Leadership award at the May 3 dinner at the President Abraham Lincoln Doubletree Hotel.

Anthony Sassan, an attorney with the Crystal Lake firm Zukowski, Rogers, Flood and McArdle, will receive the project’s Pro Bono Award for more than 11 years of work on behalf of Pamela Jacobazzi.

The Illinois Innocence Project, which is part of the center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield, is working with Sassan to free Jacobazzi.

The story was featured by The State Journal-Register on April 27, 2014.

Read the article online