Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brian Banks to speak at the Illinois Innocence Project's Defenders of the Innocent Awards

WHAT: Brian Banks, exoneree and NFL athlete, will be the special guest at the Illinois Innocence Project’s seventh annual Defenders of the Innocent Awards. The Project is part of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield.

WHEN: Saturday, May 3, 2014 (Social at 6 p.m., Dinner/Program at 7 p.m.)

WHERE: President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 701 E. Adams Street, Springfield

DETAILS: In 2002, 17-year-old Brian Banks was wrongfully convicted of rape. At the time of his conviction, Banks was, by all accounts, a rising football star destined to play in the NFL. A high school acquaintance accused Banks of rape and kidnapping following a consensual sexual encounter. Banks spent five years in prison. Nearly a decade after his conviction, the accuser recanted her statements and acknowledged she fabricated the story.

Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, was the attorney who helped exonerate Banks. He will be honored with the Illinois Innocence Project’s Defender of the Innocent Leadership Award. He has also been a leader in developing RED Inocente, an organization devoted to creating and supporting innocence programs throughout Latin America.

Anthony Sassan, attorney at law at Zukowski, Rogers, Flood and McArdle, will be honored with the Pro Bono Award for over 11 years of work on behalf of Pamela Jacobazzi. The Illinois Innocence Project is working with Sassan to free Jacobazzi. The day-care provider was convicted in 1994 of violently shaking to death an infant in her care in DuPage County. Attorneys argue pre-existing medical conditions may have caused or contributed to the infant’s death, rather than Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Those wishing to attend the event are encouraged to register online at A tax-deductible donation of $100 is encouraged for those making reservations. The event includes hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, and dinner. To register by phone, please call the Illinois Innocence Project at 217/206-6569.

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