Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Raymond Santana sit in court while Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer gives her opening statements in June 1990. (Photo: Photo/Marilyn Church, File)
Twelve years after their sexual assault convictions were overturned, the Central Park Five have finally reached a $40 million settlement with New York City over their arrest and imprisonment, the New York Times reports. The details of the deal are confidential, and it must still be approved by the city's comptroller and a federal judge.
The five black and Hispanic men were only teenagers in 1989 when they were accused of the beating and rape of Trisha Meili, an investment banker jogging through Central Park (Meili went public with her name in the 2004 memoir I Am the Central Park Jogger). The attack took place amid a racially charged atmosphere in New York, with reports of "wilding" teenagers described in the press as "wolf packs." Then-Mayor Ed Koch called it "the crime of the century," and there was intense public interest in apprehending the perpetrator.
The five teens soon became the focus of the investigations that followed, and four of five boys eventually confessed to the rape and to other attacks that took place that same night — confessions that contradicted each other, and which they later claimed were made under coercion. DNA collected all came from the same person, but did not match any of the boys.
All five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise — were convicted in 1990 on a variety of charges including rape, assault, robbery and sexual assault.
But in 2002, a convicted rapist and murderer named Matias Reyes came forward and claimed sole responsibility for the crime, which took place when he was 17. Because of his account of the crime, along with DNA evidence and the allegations of coercion, a New York Supreme Court judge vacated the convictions of all five defendants — four of whom were out of jail by that time.
All five men have consistently maintained their innocence in the years that followed, and sought damages from New York City, which until recently had been unwilling to admit fault or settle. But in the course of last year's municipal election campaign, Bill De Blasio, now the city's mayor, issued a statement calling for a settlement. “It’s long past time to heal these wounds," de Blasio said in January. "As a city, we have a moral obligation to right this injustice. It is in our collective interest — the wrongly accused, their families and the taxpayer — to settle this case and not let another year slip by without action.”
According to the Times, the $40 million settlement amounts to about $1 million per year of imprisonment for each man. The paper also reported that in such settlements, the city does not typically admit any wrongdoing.
In 2012, the filmmaker Ken Burns released The Central Park Five, a documentary about the case and the media frenzy that surrounded it. When he was in the red chair, Burns talked about the film:
And for more on the Central Park Five case and the settlement, see this interview from Democracy Now.
Via New York Times