The Central Park Five and their supporters declared victory on the steps of City Hall Friday following news this week that the City Comptroller signed off on a $40 million settlement in connection with their case. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Emotional members of the so-called Central Park Five said they are thankful for a nearly $41 million settlement from the city for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment in an infamous rape case that divided the city, but they said the money can't erase years of pain and humiliation.
"Nobody gave us a chance until the people that believe in us," said Kevin Richardson, who was wrongfully convicted in the case. "People called us animals, wolf pack."
It was back in 1989 when jogger Trisha Meili was raped and beaten with rocks and pipes and left for dead in Central Park. At the time, teenagers Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam were convicted, but they argued that their confessions were coerced by police and Manhattan prosecutors.
"Today is supposed to be a joyful celebration, and again, I want to put the gloves back on. I don't know how to take them off," Santana said. "All I know how to do is go out there and speak against injustice."
In their case, eventually, another man already serving jail time, Matias Reyes, came forward and said he committed the rape. The Central Park Five were exonerated, but had already served between six and 13 years in prison. They waged a bitter battle with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration to settle the case. Mayor Bill de Blasio promised he would settle it once taking office.
"I used to call this the criminal system of injustice, but Yusef Salaam has now today called it, for the Central Park Five, the criminal justice system," Salaam said.
Relatives of the Central Park Five said all is not forgiven.
"I have received no victory," said Sharoone Salaam, Yusef Salaam's mother. "I am not smiling, nor am I laughing all the way to the bank."
The settlement is not quite a done deal yet. A federal judge is currently looking over the agreement to make sure everything is OK, and then the judge will sign off on it.