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Posted at 02:21 PM ET, 05/31/2012

Petition hopes to garner scholarship for Brian Banks after his exoneration in rape case

An online petition posted at is looking for 10,000 signatures to help Brian Banks, the former high school football star who was falsely accused of rape in 2002 and recently exonerated.

Brian Banks weeps as his attorney Justin Brooks, right, and attorney Alissa Bjerkhoel react as Banks's rape conviction is dismissed May 24 in Long Beach, Calif.
This latest example of “click activism” was started by Tara J. Young, public organizer and creator of hiphopadvocate(dot)org., a Philadelphia-based advocacy group. She is asking for the University of Southern California, the school Banks had verbally committed to before he was sent to prison, to offer Banks a full four-year scholarship. is the public campaign Web site that was used by the parents and attorneys of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in February, to help garner attention in the controversial shooting.

“When I first heard the story . . . I felt so bad for him. When you saw him cry, you just couldn’t help but feel something in your heart for him. . . ,” Young said of getting behind Banks’s cause. “What if the school, in a nice gesture, said, ‘Hey, we’re not expecting you to play football, but if you still want to come here and go to college to help rebuild your life, it is there for you.’ ”

A football star in high school, Banks was pursued by several top colleges, but his hopes were dashed after he was convicted of raping and assaulting a then-15-year-old girl. Banks pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of a lawyer, even though he maintained his innocence.

After Banks served his five-year sentence, his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, admitted that she had lied, but hesitated to contact prosecutors for fear of losing the $1.5 million settlement that she was awarded from Long Beach schools in conjunction with the case.

Since launching the petition last weekend, Young said she has received more than 80 signatures. She said
Brian Banks, center, reacts with his mother, Leomia Myers, and father, Jonathan Banks, outside court after his rape conviction was dismissed May 24 in Long Beach, Calif.
she will continue to lobby for support through the end of June, when the petition is scheduled to close. Banks has also received several invitations from NFL teams to try out for their clubs.

“Brian Banks is the face of many African Americans in any area across the country that have been wrongly convicted,” said Young, who started her organization in the District. “This petition represents him, but it’s also for those people in other communities that see a person being railroaded by various circumstances — that they will stand up for them, too.”

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By Erin Williams  |  02:21 PM ET, 05/31/2012

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