City attorneys are trying to get their hands on outtakes from a Ken Burns documentary about the five men convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. The convictions were overturned in 2002 and the men are suing, seeking damages. The city is fighting the case and so far, the filmmakers are refusing to turn anything over. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
In his latest film, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns turns his lens on the five men exonerated for raping a woman in Central Park in 1989.
The men were teens at the time. They initially confessed to the rape and were convicted. When another man claimed responsibility and his DNA was a match, the convictions were overturned in 2002.
But the story didn't end there. The men and their families sued the city for $250 million. And now the city is trying to force the filmmakers to turn over a good deal of their materials as part of the case.
Sarah Burns made the documentary with her father. It is based on a book she wrote about the rape case.
"We believe that we are protected under the shield laws for journalists," she said. "We fear that it would have a chilling effect on our ability to do those same kinds of interviews in the future."
City lawyers are arguing that the filmmakers are not acting as journalists but as advocates for the men because they have pushed the city to settle the case.
"The plaintiffs' interviews go to the heart of the case and cannot be obtained elsewhere," said Celeste Koeleveld of the New York City Law Department. "If the plaintiffs truly want an open airing of the facts, they should encourage the filmmakers not to hide anything."
Jonathan Moore, a lawyer representing four of the five men who were convicted and later exonerated in the Central Park rape, said the subpoena is just another attempt by the city to drag its feet on this case.
"They are putting up every road block they can to try to avoid the day of reckoning, which is to admit that these kids didn't do anything wrong," Moore said.
One of the exonerated men, Raymond Santana, said the whole thing seems like a fishing expedition. He said that even if city lawyers do get their hands on the outtakes, it will not help the city's case.
"Nothing is going to change," Santana said. "The facts are always going to remain the same. We didn't do it. That's it."