After nine years of carrying the rapist label - and nine years of trying to clear his name - it took less than 30 seconds for Brian Banks to be exonerated.
The former football standout at Poly High School, who once had a scholarship offer from USC, walked out of Long Beach Superior Court an innocent man Thursday.
"Now it is as if it never happened," said Banks' attorney, Justin Brooks. "The conviction is reversed."
Despite pleading no contest to forcible rape in 2003, based on testimony that has since been recanted, Banks always maintained his innocence.
Nine years ago, Banks was a 17-year-old senior-to-be attending summer school at Poly High when he had what he said was a consensual encounter with
On Thursday, he was vindicated. It took only moments for the District Attorney's Office to "concede the matter" and Banks, 26, was no longer a convicted criminal.
The burly, 6-foot-4 Banks dropped his head into his crossed arms and wept while his girlfriend, Pamela Soladar, cried audibly as the announcement was made. Tears also flowed for Banks' parents, Jonathan and Leomia Banks. Even another of Banks' attorneys, Alissa Bjerkhoel, had to wipe her cheeks dry.
Banks served five years and two months in prison and later
Gibson recanted her story a little more than a year ago and, with the help of the California Innocence Project, Banks was able to get his conviction reversed.
"It's a great day," Brooks said. "Finally, justice is done."
"This is the best day ever," said Leomia Banks. "We've been praying for this for so long."
"My only dream was to be free," Banks said, "to have the same opportunity of everyone here."
While, legally speaking, the slate may be wiped clean, Brooks said Thursday was just a first step.
"There's still a lot of work to be done here and here," he said, pointing to his head and heart.
For years, that "first step" had to cross a seemingly unbridgeable chasm.
Questions could be raised, based on legal documents and court records, about the lack of forensic evidence in a rape kit performed on Gibson, her wildly inconsistent and implausible testimony, and the possibility that police and the district attorney were heavy-handed
However, Banks had no chance for review of his case, nor of the Innocence Project coming to his aid, unless new evidence came to light.
And the only person who could provide that was Gibson.
So there was amazement in the Banks family when in February 2011, Gibson attempted to "friend" Banks on Facebook.
"I got on my knees and prayed," Banks said. "I asked God to help me play my cards right."
"It was shocking," Soladar said. "He said (to Gibson) `You have to help me get my life back."'
Gibson met with Banks and recanted her accusations on tape. Then she recanted the recantation.
However, after a harrowing year of no-shows, extensions and divergent testimonies, Brooks said he was able to get Gibson's testimony vindicating Banks on the court record.
Despite the setbacks along the way, Banks felt that after Gibson first recanted, he knew "eventually the truth would get out. It definitely was hard, though."
After that, the case was straightforward. Banks' team argued that because the plea and the prosecution's case rested solely on Gibson's testimony, and because that testimony was false, no crime had been committed and Banks was innocent.
The District Attorney's Office agreed.
It is unclear what, if any, legal proceedings may be ahead.
Gibson received $1.5 million from the Long Beach Unified School District after suing, claiming lax security and an unsafe environment.
The school district wouldn't comment on the case Thursday and Banks said he didn't know whether he would proceed civilly against Gibson.
Brentford Ferreira, head of the habeus corpus section of the District Attorney's Office, said as far as he was concerned the Banks case was over and he didn't foresee charges against Gibson.
Banks' accuser didn't show up at Thursday's court proceedings and was unavailable for comment.
Banks' dream now is to pursue playing in the NFL.
Asked why he didn't pursue football immediately upon his release from prison, Banks looked down at his ankle and tracking device.
"This here," he said. "I needed my complete freedom."
He is also hoping to create a documentary about his ordeal and quest to make the NFL. Information is available at brianbanks.org.
For now, Banks is training six days a week at the MetroFlex gym in Long Beach with trainers Marcus Hobbs and Chris Albert.
"If anyone can do it, he can," Albert said of Banks. "He's got determination and that's 99 percent of it. He's got a level head and he's one of the best decision makers I've seen."
While he was forced away from the game, Banks said, "I felt like a toy that had been switched off and sitting on the shelf while all the other toys were running around. I finally got my switch turned back on."
To possible NFL suitors, Brooks had this message: "Give this guy a chance. He's the most determined guy I've ever met."
And like the warrior athlete he was and hopes once again to be, Banks added: "I'm unbroken. I'm still here."
Follow Greg Mellen on Twitter at http://twitter.com/gregmellen