By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

In 2002, Brian Banks was 16 years old and laser-focused on going to college at USC on a full ride, and then becoming a part of the NFL. He had decided early to become a Trojan, and had been assured of a full ride. Then everything went sideways, and Brian was accused and then convicted of a rape he never committed. He spent 6 years in prison, and then 5 on parole. At first, he was understandably shocked and enraged, especially given the fact that the young girl, who was also 16 at the time of the incident received $1.5 million in a lawsuit filed against the Long Beach, California School District for “not providing enough security.”

But while Brian was incarcerated, there was a man named Jerome Johnson who worked at the facility. Jerome taught classes to the boys in juvie, and saw something in Brian that Brian couldn’t see in himself. He gave Brian a copy of a classic book written in 1903 by a man by the name of James Allen. It is entitled, As A Man Thinketh. The book is described by Allen as "... [dealing] with the power of thought, and particularly with the use and application of thought to happy and beautiful issues. I have tried to make the book simple, so that all can easily grasp and follow its teaching, and put into practice the methods which it advises. It shows how, in his own thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances. The price of the book is only one shilling, and it can be carried in the pocket." It was also described by Allen as "A book that will help you to help yourself"; "A pocket companion for thoughtful people"; and "A book on the power and right application of thought."

That book saved Brian’s life, and combined with the prayers of his mom and others, he never gave up hope of proving his innocence. Enter the California Innocence Project, under the direction of Justin Brooks. Because there were so many aspects to Brian’s case that were outside the scope of the CIP’s normal approach to their cases, at first they refused to take the case.

But Brian prevailed, convinced them to take the case, worked hard to provide what was deemed “extraordinary evidence,” and was finally totally exonerated. But there was more. After he was found innocent, Brian went on to fulfill his childhood dream, playing for the NFL. He became one of the oldest rookies in the NFL, getting signed on by the Atlanta Falcons in 2013.

What strikes me about this young man is the hard work of forgiveness that he has done. He wishes no evil to those who committed evil against him. And, to think that what started it all was a small book, and a man who believed in him.

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