By now we are all familiar with the outrage sweeping the nation since a Santa Clara County, Calif., judge sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in county jail after the 20-year-old was convicted of raping an unconscious and intoxicated woman in 2015.
However, Brian Banks, a once-promising high school football player who was wrongly accused of rape when he was 16, and later convicted, is adding a new perspective to the case, pointing out the disparities between his treatment—even with no evidence—by the justice system and Turner’s.
“It was like I was not even in the room,” Banks said Monday, recalling for the New York Daily News his experience sitting in a courtroom where no one would acknowledge him. “I felt like I wasn’t a human being. I was a number.”
According to the site, Banks has been watching the Stanford rape case closely and couldn’t help noticing Turner’s much lighter sentencing, despite the fact that, like Turner, Banks did not have a criminal history.
Banks was 16 when he said he was making out with a 15-year-old girl in 2002. By the end of the day, he was accused of rape and was ultimately tried as an adult. He was sent to juvenile hall for a year before his case came up, and then he was facing 41 years to life in prison. At first Banks, knowing that he did not commit the crime, turned down plea deals for 25, 18 and nine years in prison. He then agreed to go through 90 days of observation in Chico State Prison after his lawyer told him he would then get probation. He said that he was told that it was the best option as a black kid facing an all-white jury.
The judge, however, handed Banks a six-year sentence.
“It was like he was ordering McDonald’s at a drive-thru window,” Banks told the Daily News. “It was like he was ordering food and took off.”
By the time Banks’ accuser recanted her claims, it was 2012 and Banks had already served five years and two months in prison and five years of high-custody parole.
In comparison, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky did not sentence Turner to prison and didn’t even come close to the maximum 14 years that the 20-year-old could have received for his crimes.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky decided in a ruling that outraged social media users. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
“I would say it’s a case of privilege,” Banks said. “It seems like the judge based his decision on lifestyle. ‘He’s lived such a good life and has never experienced anything serious in his life that would prepare him for prison. He was sheltered so much he wouldn’t be able to survive prison.’ What about the kid who has nothing? He struggles to eat, struggles to get a fair education? What about the kid who has no choice who he is born to and has drug-addicted parents or a nonparent household? Where is the consideration for them when they commit a crime?”
Banks said that he was “surprised” the courts found a way to consider Turner’s lifestyle and that “he wouldn’t know how to deal with career criminals.”
“You know a man is guilty, so why aren’t we unleashing half of the punishment that was unleashed on Brian Banks, when he was innocent and there was no evidence?” Banks said. “They gave me six years. They gave him six months.”
Banks, who now works with the NFL’s Los Angeles office, also spoke out on behalf of Turner’s victim, saying that she “has been totally ignored.”
“She has to live with her hardship and tragedy for the rest of her life,” he said.
And Banks had 10 years taken away from him, losing his college scholarship and a possible career in the NFL for a crime he did not commit.
“I wasn’t physically raped, but I was raped in a sense of my freedom,” he said. “I was kidnapped, taken against my will, placed in a box for five years and two months. I was denied all human rights. When I screamed and pleaded and begged, it fell on deaf ears. It’s a different form of being assaulted and taken advantage of. I know what she is going through.”
Read more at the New York Daily News.