Who Are The Central Park 5? New Details On That Fateful Night And Their Exoneration Via DNA Evidence

Photo: Instagram
Who Are The Central Park 5? New Details On That Fateful Night And Their Exoneration Via DNA Evidence

On the night of April 19, 1989 in Central Park in New York City, a roving gang of about 30 largely African-American and Hispanic teenagers took over the park. There were a number of attacks in the park that night, the worst of which was the rape of a Caucasian woman who was beaten beaten so badly she nearly died. She was in a coma for 12 days and required years of rehab and therapy. Five teenagers —f our African Americans and one Hispanic — were arrested in conneciton with the rape and beating of the woman known as The Central Park Jogger.

The trial was sensationalized — at the time New York City was going through a period of heightened racial tensions that contributed to the increased vitriol against the teenagers who were arrested for the rape of The Central Park Jogger. The thing is, DNA evidence did not back up the District Attorney's claim that these five teenagers: Kevin Richardson, 15, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and Korey Wise, 16, were the perpetrators of The Central Park Jogger's rape and brutal beating. The Central Park Five spent between six and 13 years in prison. Four of the appealed their convictions unsuccessfully. All five of them sued for emotional distress and received $41 million in damages from New York City.  As it turns out, while the five teens were part of the general melee in the park that night, they didn't rape The Central Park Jogger. That was another man, a convicted serial rapist named Matias Reyes.

The case of the Central Park Five and The Central Park Jogger are detailed in a recent episode of 20/20 and in the Netflix mini series When They Hear Us. Oh, and by the way, Donald Trump had a rather deranged involvement in the 1990 trial of The Central Park Five as well. Ten days after the attack on the Central Park Jogger, Trump took out $85,000 worth of newspaper ads calling for public executions of the Central Park Five. Then, in 2016, long after they had been exonerated, he doubled down on his conviction that they were guilty. But more on that later. 

Who are the Central Park Five?

1. The Arrests

The police apprehended Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson along with other teenagers at Central Park West and 102nd Street at about 10:15pm. Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise were brought in for questioning later, after they were identified by other partipants in the violent events at Cental Park that night. The teenagers were grilled for hours. Normal police procedure called for criminal suspects under the age of 16 to be withheld from the media and the public. This was not done in the case of The Central Park Five. The media printed the names, photos and addresses of the juvenile suspects. Four of the five confessed to a number of the attacks in the park that night as well as implicated one or more of the others. None of the five said they raped the jogger, though each confessed to being an accomplice to the rape in that they held her down. 

RELATED: Who Is Lee Cruse? New Details On The Kentucky TV Anchor Fired For Racist Remarks About Royal Baby

2. The convictions

There were a number of inconsistencies in the confessions and no physical evidentce tying them to the crime scene. The DNA evidence did not match any of the five teenagers standing trial for the rape and beating of The Central Park Jogger. Despite this, the five boys were convicted. In a 2016 op-ed, Yusef Salaam claimed that NYPD interrogators deprived him and the other teens of food, drink and sleep for more than 24 hours while attempting to get confessions out of them.

Santana, McCray and Salaam were found guilty of rape, assault, robbery and riot in the attack on The Central Park Jogger as well as separate assaults on two male joggers. They were sentenced to five to 10 years in a juvenile detention facility in upstate New York. Richardson was convicted of attempted murder, rape, sodomy, assault and robbery in connection those same attacks. Richardson was also sentenced to five to 10 years in a juvenile detention center. Wise was convicted of sexual abuse and assault in connection with The Central Park Jogger attack, but was acquitted of all counts related to the other two joggers. Wise was the only teenager tried as an adult and he was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison. The Central Park Five served between six and 13 years in prison. All of them had been released when the convictions were vacated in 2002.

3. Convictions vacated

The Central Park Five maintained their innocence all along and continued to assert that their confessions were coerced. However, no one believed them until June 2002, when Matias Reyas claimed sole responsibility for the rape and beating of The Central Park Jogger. Reyes was a serial rapist and convicted murderer serving a 33-year prison sentence when he confessed to the crime. His DNA matched evidence found at the crime scene. Additionally, he was able to provide specifc details of the assualt that led the police to take his confession seriously. As a result, the convictions of The Central Park Five were vacated. In 2014, after suing the city, they recieved $41 million in damages from a civil lawsuit. Reyes was not tried for the rape of The Central Park Jogger as the statute of limitations had expired. 

RELATED: Who Is Jim Lammey? New Details About Tennessee Judge Who Posted Racist And Anti-Semitic Tweets

4. The Trump Connection

At every turn in the media circus around the arrest and trials of The Central Park Five, Donald Trump, then a New York City real estate developer inserted himself into the fray. Days after the attack, he took out full page ads in four major New York City newspapers costing $85,000 that said: “Bring back the death penalty, bring back our police!” The ads went on to make a case for the reinstatement of the death penalty so that the Central Park Five could be executed for their alleged crimes, saying: "At what point did we cross the line from the fine and noble pursuit of genuine civil liberties to the reckless and dangerously permissive atmosphere which allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman and then laugh at her family’s anguish? I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them … I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid."

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Trump's ads escalated the lynch mob mentality in New York City at the time. Pat Buchanan wrote that Korey Wise, the oldest of the five at 16, should be "hanged in Central Park." He also wrote that the other boys should be "stripped, horsewhipped and sent to prison."

When the 2014 $41 million civil settlement came down for the Central Park Five, Trump wrote an op-ed for the The New York Daily News. He wrote: "My opinion on the settlement of the Central Park Jogger case is that it's a disgrace. A detective close to the case, and who has followed it since 1989, calls it 'the heist of the century,’" he wrote. "Settling doesn't mean innocence. Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels."

Then, when Trump was campaigning for president in 2016, he continued this rhetoric, despite the fact that it had been nearly 15 years since the Central Park Five had been exonerated of the crimes. Trump told CNN: “They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty,” Trump said in the statement. “The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

In an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2016, Salaam sad that Trump never apologized for calling for the teenagers' deaths. He also said that Trump's latest statements showed his “bias, racism and inability to admit that he’s wrong."

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. She is deeply devoted to her chocolate Labrador and an avid long distance runner. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.