April 19 seems to be a day where some significant anniversaries were observed. The Shot Heard Round the World, Waco, Oklahoma City, and the day the lives of one woman, these three men (L-R, Kharey Wise, Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson) and two others, Antron McCray and Yusef Salaam, were changed forever. The woman was Patricia Meili, better known as the Central Park Jogger. On April 19, 1989 she was beaten and raped while jogging through Central Park in New York City, the brutality of such sparked outrage across the country and concern for crime in the streets - and when conservatives got hold of the story, that became a bad thing because as Dick Gregory wrote in his 1968 book Write Me In! "'Crime in the streets' is America's new way of saying 'n----r'." Sure enough, when five Black and Latino boys were arrested for the crime, all hell broke loose. They were villified and made to be representative of black youth of New York City. Even Donald Trump chimed in with an ad placed in New York Newsday on May 2, 1989, calling for the execution for "these muggers and murders." Laws were passed to make it easier to try juveniles as adults. There was no sympathy for them as they maintained their innocence or anyone who defended them. Ultimately they would be convicted and serve up to 13 years in prison. Then, in 2002, long after they served their time and were generally forgotten, something happened. Matias Reyes, a man serving time for murder and serial rape, claimed that he was the attacker, and DNA evidence linked him to the crime. The five men's convictions were thrown out at the district attorney's request, although some of the media outlets that initially demonized them like the New York Daily News who opposed total exoneration because they believed "they were not choirboys the night of the attack," referring to reports of them being among 30 youths engaging in misbehavior. New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser also maintained her now unfounded hatred for the Central Park 5 with that routine writing that but also tried to keep alive the possibility of their guilt. On April 19, 2010, There was a rally for the Central Park 5 demanding that the civil suit they had brought against the city six years ago be allowed to move forward. Apparently those responsible for rushing thm into prison haven't been just as swift in making ammends. When the news of their possible innocence broke we were active in pushing for their immediate exoneration. We actually thought our work was done. Sadly however, it seems NYC still wants to play games with the lives of these young men. Enough. The city needs to close the book on this story and do it now.
Amadi Ajamu, Indymedia
Twenty one years ago, April 19, 1989, five innocent Black and Latino teenage boys were captured and arrested by NYPD for the rape and beating of a white woman. She was an investment banker jogging in Central Park. Before they went to trial, newspaper headlines and television news broadcasts condemn them. They were convicted and spent from 6 to 13 years in prison. A case reminiscent of the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama 1931.
“I was fourteen years old,” Raymond Santana explained at the City-Wide Justice Rally for the Central Park 5 held in Foley Square amid downtown courthouses on April 19, 2010. “They called us animals “wilding”, but we knew we were innocent and we held our heads up. We lost many years and we are still trying to catch up. This is not just about us, Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury and Eleanor Bumpers were murdered by police. There are a lot more people going through what we did.”
City Councilman Charles Barron stated, “They should be glad that we are still holding these rallies and trying to passed new legislation. We have got to push Mayor Bloomberg to stop stalling and compensate these young men who spent their youth in prison on trumped up charges. The city has paid known drug dealers in civil cases. It has been too long, this is the real crime. "
Mr. Santana's sister Joanna said “When we went to court back then a guardian angel spit on me, I had always thought they helped people. Everyone was against us, but we always knew the truth would come out.” Ms. Santana designed the T-shirt worn by all the family members, “The shirts say 'In God we trust just' like the sign in the courtroom. But we really trust in God, he brought us through this and kept us strong.”
Spokesman Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement said, “Without any physical evidence, the NYPD and the District Attorney's office, namely fiction crime writer Linda Fairstein, railroaded five young boys to further their own careers. They spent a total of forty years in prison. Even Donald Trump exploited them by taking out full page ads in the major newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty for their case just to promote his own name. The police knew they were innocent but they never really investigated the crime. Any Black or Latino boys would do.”
“Matias Reyes, serving time for another rape and murder committed after the jogger attack, finally confessed to the crime in 2002. His was the only DNA found at the crime scene. The damage done to these men must be repaired now! We demand justice. We can not let them criminalize our youth without a fight. We are all the Central Park 5,” Clay concluded.
Kharey Wise, who spent 13 years in prison, made a brief statement thanking all the people who supported them through the 21 years. “We were exonerated and we want compensation for the years they stole from us.” Kevin Richardson could barely speak through his tears. “It's unusual to see a grown man cry, but we have been through so much. It was torture. We are putting our lives back together and taking care of our families. Thank you all for standing by us.”
The civil case against New York City for the wrongful conviction of the Central Park 5 has been stalled for over six years by foot-dragging city attorneys. Justice for these innocent young men is long overdue.
Links to Articles on the case:
Talk Left-The Taint Builds in Central Park Jogger Case. There are other articles on this website that can be found on this case
Democracy Now!-A Roundtable Discussion on Forced Confessions. When you go to this site, you will need Real Player to hear it.
Ronn Taylor's Central Park Page. We have to warn you that this guy does not mince words. At all.
Racism railroaded justice in jogger rape case. By Helen Benedict (Black Voices)
In Our View: Justice for the Central Park Five. From the North Star Network