Convictions may fall in brutal Central Park attack

By Samuel Maull
Associated Press
Dec. 6, 2002

NEW YORK - Citing DNA on a sock, prosecutors asked a judge Thursday to throw out the convictions of five young men found guilty of beating and gang-raping a jogger during a 1989 "wilding" spree in Central Park that exposed the city's deep racial divide to the rest of the nation.

District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's recommendation came 11 months after a convicted rapist who had never before come under suspicion in the case confessed. Also, DNA tests confirmed that his semen was on one of the socks the victim was wearing 13 years ago.

Morgenthau stopped short of declaring the five innocent, but said the confession and the tests create "a probability that the verdicts would have been more favorable to the defendants."

The decision of whether to throw out the convictions rests with state Justice Charles Tejada, who is expected to rule by Feb. 6.

The attack on a White 28-year-old investment banker, supposedly by a gang of Black and Hispanic boys from Harlem, symbolized New York City's struggles with crime and race relations in the late 1980s.

The jogger, a former employee of Salomon Bros., is now 41. She has been married for five years and is said to have a book due out in April.

The five defendants, who were 14 to 16 at the time of the attack, are now mostly in their late 20s and have already completed prison terms for the crime.

But throwing out their convictions could permit them to sue the city and would free them from having to register as sex offenders.

"We are truly moved by this decision," said Sharonne Salaam, mother of one of the youths. "But we also feel like we've been victimized, like the Central Park jogger. We all feel we were denied justice."

Through a spokeswoman, the victim declined to comment.

She was left for dead in a pool of mud and blood on April 19, 1989, after dozens of teenagers descended on the park to mug runners and bicyclists in a crime spree dubbed wilding. She was in a coma for 12 days.

Some questioned whether the Central Park youths were rounded up because of their skin color and suggested police would not have pursued the case so aggressively had the victim been Black or Hispanic.

Police said all five confessed, four of them on video, and that evidence proved devastating at trial.

But until January's confession, there seemed to be little chance of overturning the convictions against Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam.

The confession came from Matias Reyes, 31, who is serving a life sentence for raping three women near Central Park and raping and killing a pregnant woman.

He said he broke his long silence after finding religion.

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