It has been nearly 25 years since five teenage boys were wrongfully convicted for the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, and New York City has agreed to pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the men accusing the city’s police and prosecutors of “false arrest, malicious prosecution and a racially motivated conspiracy to deprive the men of their civil rights.”
As the New York Times reports, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration denied allegations of wrongdoing and fought the lawsuit in court for a decade. In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s new counsel was “committed to making sure we get to that settlement quickly, some complicated issues, but we’re going to work through them very, very quickly,” citing a “moral obligation to right this injustice.”
In 1989, five black and Latino boys between the ages of 14 and 16 — Antron McCray, Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise — were arrested in connection with the assault and rape of a jogger in Central Park. As the Times notes, each said that the incriminating statements they gave police were coerced, but the statements were ruled admissible and they were each convicted in 1990.
In 2002, an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office found through DNA evidence that the five boys had not been involved in the rape and assault. Instead, there was a single perpetrator who confessed to acting alone. In light of the new evidence, the district attorney asked that the convictions be vacated.
More from the Times:
Over the years, the men have consistently maintained their innocence [...] In prison, three of the men — Mr. Richardson, Mr. Salaam and Mr. Santana — maintained their innocence in the rape at parole hearings, where such a stance hurt their chances at a reduced term. [...]
As recently as last Friday, about 100 people gathered at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn to view the film ["The Central Park Five" by Ken Burns] and to hear a talk by one of the men, Mr. Salaam. He described the stigma of living with the brand of being a rapist. “It wasn’t a popular thing to be one of us,” he said. The film, he added, “really gave us our lives back.”
At one point, he addressed the lawsuit. “Mayor de Blasio has said that he will settle this case for us and there has been some positive motion,” Mr. Salaam said, adding, “We’ve been waiting for 25 years for justice.”
Kharey Wise spent 13 years in prison as the result of the wrongful conviction. Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr. each served close to seven years.