In 2002, a well-regarded high school football player hoping to play college football faced arrest and criminal charges of rape and kidnapping. A female classmate in summer school claimed that he forcibly took her to a stairway at the school and compelled her to have sex with him against her will.
He proclaimed his innocence, but prosecutors refused to believe him, and the classmate persisted in her accusations. Seeking to avoid a possible sentence of as long as 41 years to life, the defendant was pressured into pleading guilty, a plea that came with a first year period of incarceration as well as an additional five years of supervision on probation. The guilty plea was also accompanied by a requirement that he register as a sex offender, a stigma which would follow him everywhere, and make many things, including finding a place to live and getting a job very difficult, if not impossible.
On May 24, a court threw out his rape and kidnapping convictions, exonerating him of the supposed crimes. His purported victim communicated with him online, through Facebook. Ultimately, she gave a videotape statement recanting her accusation, and admitting that it had all been a lie.
She admitted that the interaction between them, while sexual, did not include intercourse, and that further, it had been consensual. Her rape story was just a concoction dreamed up after he made a remark that she was angry about. She later further recanted her recantation, apparently to avoid giving back a $1.5 million award her family had collected from the school district.
Ultimately, after further investigation, the prosecutor agreed that the convictions should be thrown out. Many other cases of false convictions have occurred, based on untruthful accusations, shoddy eyewitness identifications, or other flawed evidence, with some convictions overturned only after innocent people have spent years or even decades in prison.
Source: USA Today, “Brian Banks has rape and kidnapping convictions overturned,” Jim Halley, May 24, 2012