Exonerated Central Park Five Reach $40 Million Settlement

The five men, whose convictions in the 1989 brutal assault of a female Central Park jogger were later overturned, have agreed to a $40 million settlement from New York City to settle a long-fought lawsuit over their wrongful imprisonment in the highly publicized crime.

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Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, speaking at a rally for Troy Davis in Union Square in New York City.

Wikimedia Commons/Thomas Good/NLN

Five men, four black and one Hispanic, widely known as the Central Park Five whose charges—in the 1989 ruthless beating and sexual assault of 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili during her routine jog through Central Park—were later overturned, have reached a $40 million settlement with New York City, reports the New York Times.

The proposed deal will attempt to resolve a bitterly contested civil rights lawsuit that accused the city’s police and prosecutors of false arrest and malicious, racially motivated prosecution in connection to the crime that fanned racial tensions, propelled by sensational news reports and political rhetoric, and grew to symbolize lawlessness among New York youths, according to the New York Times.

The city is set to pay the men roughly $1 million, presumably to include legal costs, for each year they spent in prison, the New York Times reports. This figure suggests that Kharey Wise, who spent 13 years behind bars, may receive more than anyone else in the wrongful conviction case.

The other four men, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr. each spent seven years in prison, notes the New York Times.

An investigation in December 2002 by the Manhattan district attorney at the time, Robert M. Morgenthau, uncovered DNA and other evidence that suggested that the jogger had been raped and beaten not by the five men, who were teenagers at the time, but by convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes, and that he acted alone in the attack, according to the New York Times.

Based on the new evidence that could have altered the outcomes of the cases against the five, Morgenthau’s office pushed for a motion that requested that the young men’s convictions be vacated.

The move was protested for more than a decade in federal court by former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, which argued that the authorities had acted in good faith and with just cause and should not be held liable.

If the settlement is approved, it will uphold a pledge that current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made to meet a “moral obligation to right this injustice,” reports the New York Times.

The proposed settlement closely follows the New York City Police Department’s commitment to resolve two outstanding lawsuits related to its “stop-and-frisk practices,” notes the New York Times.

It remains unknown how de Blasio may announce the settlement of the Central Park lawsuit once it is approved.

Last week at a screening at a Baptist church in Brooklyn, N.Y., of The Central Park Five, a documentary about the case, Salaam said he was pleased that de Blasio had promised to settle the case, according to the New York Times.

“We’ve been waiting for 25 years for justice,” Salaam said.

Read more at the New York Times.

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