Settlement Spells Apparent Final Chapter To Central Park Rape Case

Jun 20, 2014
Originally published on June 20, 2014 7:08 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now the final chapter of a controversial crime story that riveted New York City and the nation 25 years ago. The Central Park Five were young black and Latino men who were wrongly convicted of beating and raping a white jogger in Central Park. This week came news that city officials have agreed to a cash settlement, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: In April 1989, a white investment banker was brutally assaulted while jogging in Central Park. Immediately, the police focused their investigation on a gang of black and Latino teenagers who had been causing mischief elsewhere in the park that night.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Last night, a woman jogger was found unconscious and partially clothed in Central Park. The victim was jogging across 102 Street Cross Drive when she was attacked by a dozen young males.

ROSE: After days of nonstop interrogation, four boys confessed to the crime on video tape. But they quickly recanted, saying the police had coerced them into giving false statements. Two of the men, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana, describe their interrogations in a 2012 documentary.

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KEVIN RICHARDSON: They was coaching me, and I was writing it down.

RAYMOND SANTANA: He just feed it to me. He gave me the names. I put them in. I couldn't tell you who they were, who they looked like.

ROSE: Five boys were tried and convicted in 1990. Four of them served between six and seven years in jail. But those convictions were overturned in 2012, after a serial rapist, who was already in jail for other crimes, confessed to carrying out the attack alone. A DNA test confirmed he was the rapist. The next year, the Central Park Five brought a civil rights lawsuit against the city. Cory Wise, one of the plaintiffs, served 13 years in jail.

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CORY WISE: No money could bring that time back. No money could bring the life that was missing.

ROSE: For a decade, the city defended its prosecution, but Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to settle the case. Published reports say the city will pay out $40 million. The mayor's office and city law department declined to comment. Craig Steven Wilder is a professor of history at MIT who grew up in Brooklyn. He says the settlement is long overdue.

CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: The settlement isn't really about their innocence. The real story of the Central Park Five is the story of a city and a public hysteria that demanded vengeance and got it - and then was ultimately proven wrong.

ROSE: Wilder hopes the settlement will provide some resolution for the Central Park Five, but he worries it won't have much effect on the justice system that convicted them in the first place. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.