City signs off on legal settlement for Central Park Five
The city’s comptroller signed off Thursday on a settlement with the so-called Central Park Five, who were wrongly jailed for a sensational 1989 crime that led to what critics called a racially charged rush to judgment.
All five of the men, who were teenagers when they were arrested, were exonerated in the rape and assault of the woman known then as the Central Park jogger. But they fought for years to clear their names, and all served lengthy prison terms after being convicted in jury trials of charges ranging from sexual abuse to attempted murder.
In a brief statement, Comptroller Scott Stringer said he had approved the settlement, which local media last week reported would give the men $40 million. That would amount to roughly $1 million for each year of imprisonment for the five black and Latino men convicted of attacking the woman, who is white.
“In my judgment, this settlement is a prudent and equitable solution for all parties to the lawsuit and closes a very difficult chapter in our city’s history,” said Stringer, whose approval was needed for the deal to go through.
The five -- Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam -- ranged in age from 14 to 16 when they were rounded up the night of April 19, 1989, the same night the 28-year-old victim was raped and beaten nearly to death in Central Park.
The teenagers had been in the park that evening but denied taking part in a rape or assault. They eventually confessed to the crime after hours of interrogation. Afterward, all said they had been coerced into confessing and were told they would be able to go home if they gave statements to police.
Defense attorneys said the five were scapegoats targeted by police and prosecutors under pressure to solve the crime, which shocked the city and was seen as symbolic of its festering crime problem.
The case against the five unraveled in 2002 when a convicted sex offender, Matias Reyes, who was serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a New York City woman, confessed to attacking the jogger and said he had acted alone.
Reyes’ DNA was found on the jogger, and the Central Park Five convictions were vacated later that year.
Wise, who is now 41, said last week that if it were not for Reyes coming forward, he would still be in prison. “I’d still be doing life for something I didn’t do,” Wise said at a rally Saturday. As the oldest of the five, Wise was given the longest sentence and was still in prison when Reyes confessed.
The five sued the city for $250 million.
Mayor Bill De Blasio had promised to settle the case when he took office in January. “An injustice was done. And we have a moral obligation to respond to that injustice,” he said this week when asked about the settlement.
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