New York City has agreed to pay $40 million to five men who were wrongly convicted in 1990 of raping a female jogger in Central Park the previous year, according to an unidentified source familiar with the case.
The men, who became known as the Central Park Five, were exonerated in 2002 when another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime. DNA evidence confirmed Reye’s confession.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam spent seven years in prison for the crime. The fifth man, Kharey Wise, served nearly 13 years, according to the New York Daily News.
USA Today reports the men later sued the city on civil rights grounds. The lawsuit alleged false arrest, malicious prosecution and racially motivated conspiracy against the city’s police and prosecutors.
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It is hoped the settlement will bring to an end the decades-long battle.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought the case while in office. The New York Times reports that in 2011, a representative from Bloomberg's administration said the original charges against the men were supported by “abundant probable cause, including confessions that withstood intense scrutiny, in full and fair pretrial hearings and at two lengthy public trials.”
A spokeswoman with the city’s Law Department took the same position in 2013.
“The case is not about whether the teens were wrongly convicted,” she said. “It’s about whether prosecutors and police deliberately engaged in misconduct.”
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Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office just six months ago, campaigned on a promise that he would put the matter rest.
In January he asked Judge Deborah A. Batts, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, to delay litigation in the case so his newly appointed attorneys could familiarize themselves with the case.
De Blasio later issued a statement saying that the lead attorney was “committed to making sure we get to that settlement quickly.”
He added that there were still “some complicated issues, but we’re going to work through them very, very quickly.”
Last week, Salaam spoke to a group about his original trial and time behind bars.
“It wasn’t a popular thing to be one of us,” he said, adding that a new documentary about the case “really gave us our lives back.”
Salaam also praised de Blasio’s efforts to reach a settlement.
“Mayor de Blasio has said that he will settle this case for us and there has been some positive motion,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for 25 years for justice.”
The settlement still needs to be approved by the city comptroller. It will then be forwarded to the court where it is expected Batts will also approve it.