As I've said previously 1989 was a pivitol year for me. It was sort of a coming of age year. I turned 18 twelve days into the new year so I was legal but not quite an adult. I had my whole life ahead of me and all of the time in the world, with absolutely no idea that 43 was only 2 or 3 days away. It was also a pivitol year for Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise but for a much different reasons. Their lives stopped that year as if they were frozen in some sort of nightmarish time capsule. Accused of assault and rape one year and then convicted the following the next, these young men, now known as the Central Park Five, have finally gotten some measure of justice. While justice delayed is not justice denied, can a monetary amount be put on the damage that false incarceration can do to the human spirit or psyche? I would venture to say no, but at least these young men have an opportunity to support themselves and their families and add closure to this decades long struggle.
Today I am pleased to report that The Central Park Five has finally gotten some measure of justice.
These 5 black and Latino men who were wrongfully convicted 24 years ago in the sensational Central Park jogger case that whipped New York into a racial frenzy, have reached a paltry $40 million settlement with the City of New York.
Now middle-aged, the men were teens when they were arrested in 1989 amid a wave of corrosive and polarizing outrage over the savage rape of a 28-year-old woman.
Convicted in 1990, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam were in prison just shy of seven years, while Kharey Wise served nearly 13.
The men, known as the Central Park Five, had been locked in a bitter battle with the city since filing civil rights lawsuits following their exoneration in 2002. Their convictions were vacated after career criminal Matias Reyes confessed to the brutal crime and DNA evidence backed up his claim.
The Bloomberg administration fought to get their lawsuits dismissed, arguing the city had acted with probable cause even though they were convicted with no evidence, and wrongfully imprisoned as a result of a botched investigation.
Then-candidate Bill De Blasio made a campaign promise last year to put the divisive issue to rest if elected. Neither the Mayor’s office nor the city's Law Department would comment on the deal, first reported by The New York Times.
But many others expressed their delight.
“Tonight I see 5 young boys resting proudly on the shoulders of 5 grown men. A long time coming my friends,” tweeted Ken Burns, who co-directed a 2012 documentary about their case.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who was sharply criticized, along with many other community activists for standing by the boys during their trials, hailed the settlement.
“We took a lot of abuse. The toll on these men and their supporters was terrible. I want to know we have things in place so that this doesn't happen again,” he said.
“I'm happy for them, but you know… money doesn't give them those years back. It doesn't give them their youth back," Sharpton added.
The CP5’s 1989 arrests occurred amid an economically strapped New York simmering with class tensions and racial unrest and gave rise to new and scary language fueled by billionaire idiot Donald Trump, who sharply criticized the city for agreeing to the $40 million settlement with the CP5.
“The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city,” Donald Trump, who is worth about $4 billion, wrote in an exclusive piece for the News. “Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”
He also described it as “the heist of the century,” expressing no remorse for fueling racial tensions against the five black and Latino teens after the sensationalized 1989 attack, taking out full-page ads demanding the death penalty after their arrests.
In the wake of The Central Park Five's victory trump had this to say,
On April 19, as cops heard reports of “wolf packs” of black and Latino teens “wilding” through Central Park, the jogger was viciously attacked.
Trisha Meili was bashed in the head with a rock nearly ripping her left eye from its socket and raped and left with skull fractures so severe she was in a coma for six weeks.
As the newspapers howled for arrests of the marauding teens and then-mayor Ed Koch called it “the crime of the century,” real-estate mogul Donald Trump took out ads calling for the return of the death penalty. Trump wanted “criminals of every age” involved in the Central Park jogger case “to be afraid.”
The Central Park Five say they never attacked Meili. They and their lawyers maintain police railroaded them into making incriminating statements against themselves and each other.
Sen. Bill Perkins, who was president of the tenants association of Schomburg Plaza, where three of the Central Park Five members lived, said the settlement brought tears to his eyes.
"This chapter of our racist history needs to be closed and never repeated again," said Perkins. "Hopefully this will never happen to anybody ever again."