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3 Found Guilty in Central Park Jogger Attacks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After 10 days of painstaking deliberations, a jury late Saturday found three teen-agers guilty of raping and assaulting a Central Park jogger in a case that added the terrifying word wilding to the national vocabulary of violence.

The jury of 10 men and two women found Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray, both 16, and Raymond Santana, 15, guilty of rape and assault on the investment banker as she jogged in the park in April, 1989.

They also convicted the teen-agers of robbing and assaulting a male jogger and assaulting a second man who was jogging in Central Park. However, the jurors, after heated arguments, did not find the defendants guilty of attempted murder or of sodomy.

In the seventh-floor courtroom of the state Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan, McCray burst into tears as the verdict was read. His shoulders shook with sobs. One of the jurors also started crying. After the verdict was complete, someone began to sing “We Shall Overcome,” and acting State Supreme Court Judge Thomas B. Galligan cleared the courtroom.

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All of the defendants, who face up to 10 years in prison when they are sentenced as juveniles on Sept. 11, were remanded to jail.

Some observers had expected a quick verdict in the case, which began when a gang of up to 50 black and Latino teen-agers raced through Central Park attacking people at will. Two of the defendants had made videotaped confessions, and a third had made a partial confession.

But the jury carefully reviewed the evidence in minute detail, studying the videotaped confessions up to half a dozen times. The jury set up a huge map of Central Park in the room where deliberations took place, seeking to match testimony with geography.

“Coming as it does after 10 days of deliberation, this verdict presents the considered judgment of 12 citizens who scrupulously reviewed the evidence and searched for the truth,” said Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau. “Justice has been done.”

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“From the beginning I have insisted that this was not a racial case,” the district attorney added. “This city is ill-served by those who have sought to exploit it to divide the races and advance their own private agendas.”

A small group of black activists, including the controversial Rev. Al Sharpton, had demonstrated daily outside the courthouse, claiming the youths were being railroaded because they were black and the victim was white.

The strain of the long deliberations was evident on the faces of the jurors, family members, reporters, defense attorneys and the prosecutor, Elizabeth Lederer, who had systematically presented evidence in the case--and who often was jeered by the pickets outside the court.

“I don’t think this was a racial case,” Lederer said after the verdict. “It troubles me that the city was so divided. I think the verdict was a just verdict.”

When the jury’s verdict of not guilty of attempted murder was first read in the courtroom, smiles filled the faces of family members of the defendants. But as the proclamations of guilt followed, their expressions soon turned to gloom.

The jury included blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians.

On the night of the attack on the jogger, April 19, 1989, a group of up to 50 Harlem teen-agers went on what they called a wilding expedition, running through Central Park and assaulting nine people.

During appearances by 44 witnesses, 183 exhibits were entered in evidence, including gruesome color photos of the female jogger as she clung to life in the intensive care unit of Metropolitan Hospital, after she had been raped and brutally beaten. However, the victim survived her injuries to return to work and is now a vice president for an investment banking firm.

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Central to the prosecution’s case were videotaped confessions and signed statements by McCray and Santana. Looking nervous as he faced the television camera, Santana described how the jogger, struggling for her life, was hit by a brick after a defendant who is to be tried later had told her: “Shut up, bitch.”

In his confession, McCray described to detectives how the jogger was attacked twice with a metal pipe. In her closing arguments to the jury, Lederer, an assistant district attorney, played portions of the tapes and read a statement Salaam allegedly made to detectives, in which he admitted striking the jogger with the pipe. She urged the jurors to view the tapes during their deliberations.

During closing arguments, defense lawyers had sought to convince the jury that the confessions were coerced and should be ignored. Salaam had made a partial confession, which was stopped after detectives were told he was 15 years old, rather than 16, as his bus pass showed. Under New York state law, a minor can not confess without a member of the family present, and Salaam’s mother withheld permission for further interrogation.

Two riveting moments occurred during the seven-week trial. The first took just 10 minutes when the jogger, a slim, short-haired 30-year-old, took the witness stand. Scarred, shaky of gait but steady of speech, she told how her memory stopped four hours before her assault. But she identified the clothing she wore the night of her attack and detailed the extent of her injuries, including continuing problems with balance, partial amnesia, the loss of her sense of smell and double vision.

The second occurence took longer, when Salaam, a 6-foot, 4-inch tall teen-ager took the stand and admitted carrying a metal pipe into the park. He said he became separated from the 49 other black and Latino youths who entered Central Park with him and said he was not involved in any of the attacks.

In her summary, Lederer treated Salaam’s story with scorn. She disbelievingly referred to him as “poor, tired Yusef Salaam, who couldn’t keep up with his friends.”

Times staff writers Jennifer Toth and Tien Lee contributed to this story.


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