Central Park Five: Men wrongly convicted for 1989 rape awarded $41 million in damages

The men were jailed as teenagers but their convictions were thrown out in 2002

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The Independent US

Five men who were wrongly convicted of raping and brutally beating a jogger in New York’s Central Park 25 years ago are being awarded $41 million (£25 million) in damages.

A federal judge has approved the payment from New York City on Friday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio called the settlement an “act of justice” that was “long overdue.”

The defendants, who are all black or Hispanic, were jailed as teenagers for the attack on a white woman and served 13 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out in 2002.

Their representatives argued that treatment of the case had racial undertones amid paranoia about the American city’s crime rate and the men’s initial admissions were the result of exhaustion and police coercion following lengthy interrogations.

They were eventually exonerated when Matias Reyes, a serial rapist and murderer, confessed in 2002 after DNA testing linked him to the scene.

Korey Wise, who at 16 was the oldest defendant at the time, served 13 years and will receive $12.25 million (£7.5 million) in the settlement that was first rumoured in June.

The other four – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam – will be paid $7.1 million each (£4.3 million), roughly $1 million for each year of spent in jail.

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One of the five accused, Yusef Salaam is escorted by police in New York in 1990

The victim lost more than 75 per cent of her blood in the brutal attack, when she was raped and her skull was bludgeoned with a rock, putting her in a coma for six days.

Aged 28 at the time, the investment banker had been on her regular evening jog and never recovered any memory of the attack.

New York City did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement, which was part of the election manifesto of the new Democrat mayor, Mr De Blasio.

“It is long past time to heal these wounds,” he said. “As a city, we have a moral obligation to right this injustice.”

The mayor at the time of the attack, Ed Koch, had branded it the “crime of the century” and it prompted Donald Trump to take out full-page newspaper adverts calling for the death penalty to be reinstated.

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New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, made the settlement part of his election manifesto

The men’s hysterical trials were the subject of a documentary called The Central Park Five by American film-maker Ken Burns, who said after initial reports of the settlement that it had been “a long time coming”.

Mr Salaam spoke of his trauma at a screening of the film in Brooklyn earlier this year.

“It wasn’t a popular thing to be one of us,” he told the audience, adding that the film “really gave us our lives back”.

“We’ve been waiting for 25 years for justice,” he added.

All five men had acknowledged in court that they had belonged to gangs which regularly patrolled Central Park but denied involvement in the rape.

Following their release, the men filed a lawsuit against the city in 2003 for wrongful imprisonment and violation of their civil rights.

New York’s legal department had previously contended that police and prosecutors had acted in good faith at the time of the arrests and convictions, and the city therefore should not be held liable.

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