The Central Park 5 are five young men — four black and one Hispanic — who were falsely accused and convicted of raping and assaulting Trisha Meili in April 1989.
While Meili was taking her usual route on her jog after work, she was brutally beaten with a rock and was raped. She was later found in the park by two passersby and taken to the hospital. By that time, she had lost 80 percent of her blood and entered a coma.
The brutality of the attack made headlines nationwide – the story garnered so much attention Donald Trump even purchased a full-page advertisement in a newspaper in relation to the case that called for “[bringing] back the death penalty.”
The night of Meili’s assault, police had received several calls as an estimated 30 teenage boys were in Central Park then, allegedly committing several attacks and robberies. Later, police would apprehend five of these boys as suspects in Meili’s attack.
During interrogation, four of the five boys would admit to committing the assault — but would later recant their confessions and say they had been coerced into making those statements.
The Trial of Central Park 5
Within the month, the Central Park 5 were indicted for attempted murder, rape, sexual abuse, sodomy, assault, and rioting. But the confessions made during the boys’ interrogations didn’t align with the facts about the assault and none of their DNA was found at the crime scene.
During the trial, Meili would testify under the alias “Central Park Jogger,” but she would state she had no recollection of that night due to her injuries.
In August 1990, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray and Yusef Salaam were sentenced to serve between five to 10 years in an upstate juvenile detention center. In December 1990, Korey Wise — who was 16 at the time — was charged as an adult and sentenced to serve five to 15 years in prison in upstate New York, and Kevin Richardson was sentenced to serve five to 10 years in a juvenile detention center.
Central Park 5 Is Exonerated
It wasn’t until 2002 that the truth surfaced. While serving a life sentence for raping four women and killing one of them, Matias Reyes — also known as the “East Side Rapist” — admitted to committing the attack on the Central Park Jogger and insisted he did it alone, coming clean because he believed “it was the right thing to do,” according to an article from the New York Daily News.
As a result, the convictions held against the Central Park 5 were overturned by a judge.
In September 2014, the city settled the case and paid them $41 million.
The Central Park 5 and Pop Culture
After 30 years, the Central Park 5 have made headlines once again, but this time due to the release of the new Netflix docuseries “When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay, starring Felicity Huffman as Linda Fairstein, Niecy Nash as Delores Wise, Jovan Adepo as Antron McCray, Jharrel Jerome as Korey Wise, and many more.