NYC releases documents connected to Central Park 5 case
NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for five men wrongly convicted in the vicious 1989 rape of a Central Park jogger said Friday that the release of investigative records leaves them “reliving the horror” of their experiences.
“The stigma that they were these horrible animals engaged in wilding has followed them through their life,” said Jonathan Moore, one of several attorneys who secured a $41 million settlement in 2014 on their behalf.
Moore said he’d spoken Friday with the men after the city released thousands of pages of investigative documents Thursday ranging from witness interviews to scraps of scribbled notes.
“For them, it’s more reliving the horror of what they experienced rather than being happy it all came out,” he said. “They get emotional about what happened and are affected to this day but they don’t do it with bitterness and hate.”
Nearly all the documents were part of the court record or were shared with lawyers who prepared a defense for the black and Hispanic teenagers who became known as the Central Park Five.
They served six to 13 years in prison before the convictions were thrown out in 2002 after evidence linked Matias Reyes, a murderer and serial rapist, to the attack.
The victim, who is white, was found with over 75 percent of her blood drained from her body and her skull smashed. She was in a coma for 12 days, suffered permanent damage and remembered nothing about the attack.
At the time, she was a 28-year-old investment banker who ran regularly in Central Park.
The attack occurred as the city was reaching a peak of 2,000 annual murders. Reports that youths were roaming the park and attacking people gave rise to the term “wilding” for urban mayhem by marauding teenagers.
The jogger, Trisha Meili, told the New York Daily News she was eager to see the documents because they contain information she never had access to.
The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, but Meili went public as a motivational speaker and wrote a book.
Moore said the release of documents won’t contain revelations “to change anyone’s opinions about what happened.”
“There’s no smoking gun there that’s going to say these kids are actually guilty and didn’t deserve a penny,” he said. “We don’t even learn more about the conduct of the cops.”
Of the Central Park Five, only one lives in the New York area anymore, Moore said. Three live near one another. Most are raising children. Some work, including speaking engagements.
“Notwithstanding that they got some money, they have never recovered from the emotional trauma,” the lawyer said.
Asked to comment on the document release, a city law office spokesman declined.
In a website introduction, the city said records include much of the over 200,000 pages and 95 witness interviews exchanged between attorneys during the civil case.
It also noted that in reaching the $41 million settlement, “the city and the individual civil defendants have denied that the convictions of the five civil plaintiffs resulted from any wrongful or otherwise unlawful acts.”