Exonerated Central Park 5 member Yusef Salaam, who called Donald Trump’s legal woes “karma,” took out a full-page ad in The New York Times addressing the former president. The move comes after President Trump was arraigned Tuesday on 34 felony counts stemming from hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.
In 1989, Salaam was one of five Black and Latino teens wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting a white woman jogger in Central Park. As a response, Trump bought a full-page ad in The New York Times demanding the group be executed. “I want to hate these murderers and I always will,” Trump wrote in the ad. “I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”
Salaam, who is currently a candidate for New York City Council, tweeted: “Over 30 years ago, Donald Trump took out full page ads calling for my execution. On the day he was arrested and arraigned, here is my ad in response.” In the letter, he detailed the harrowing experience, how damaged the legal system is and the ways in which the conviction changed his life. Salaam also called Trump out on his dangerous tenure in the White House:
“Now, after several decades and an unfortunate and disastrous presidency, we all know exactly who Donald J. Trump is — a man who seeks to deny justice and fairness for others, while claiming only innocence for himself...Here is my message to you, Mr. Trump. In response to the multiple federal and state criminal investigations that you are facing, you responded by warning of “potential death and destruction,” and by posting a photograph of yourself with a baseball bat, next to a photo of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. These actions, just like your actions leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, are an attack on our safety.”
Salaam continued: “Now that you have been indicted and are facing criminal charges, I do not resort to hatred, bias or racism — as you once did. Even though thirty-four years ago you effectively called for my death and the death of four other innocent children, I wish you no harm.”
Salaam and the four others —Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray —were eventually exonerated in 2002 with DNA evidence identifying the real attacker. However, Trump never apologized for his behavior towards the group.
In 2019, Trump stated: “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.” He pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts on Tuesday.