NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The five men wrongfully convicted of assaulting a woman in Central Park 25 years ago spoke out Friday.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise were all convicted of the beating and rape of an investment banker near the park’s reservoir in 1989.
They spent six to 13 years in jail, but their convictions were tossed out in 2002 after Matias Reyes, an incarcerated serial rapist and murderer, confessed to the attack.
Three of the five held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Friday.
“People called us animals, wolf pack,” said the 39-year-old Richardson. “I have four sisters and a mother, I would never do anything to a woman. I was raised better than that. It still hurts me emotionally. Now it feels great to have a voice because in ’89 we didn’t have one. All we wanted to tell y’all is that we didn’t do it, we just wanted to put an end to this chapter.
“Y’all tried to dehumanize us as human beings but we still here. We’re strong,” he added.
Santana, also 39, said he now tries to speak for and to others who were wrongly convicted.
“It’s unbelievable the injustice that we suffered throughout all these years and that we continue to suffer till today — the Donald Trumps, the Ann Coulters, the bloggers who still say that we’re guilty or that we’re guilty of something because they just can’t let it go, they just can’t let it go that we were innocent,” Santana said.
On Thursday, Comptroller Scott Stringer gave final approval of a $40 million settlement with the five.
“In my judgment, this settlement is a prudent and equitable solution for all parties to the lawsuit and closes a very difficult chapter in our city’s history,” Stringer said in a statement. “I would like to commend New York City’s Law Department for their extensive efforts in reaching this settlement.”
Salaam said the settlement is significant, but not enough.
“Although this is a significant amount the reality is that it’s not enough and because it’s not enough those of who have jobs should keep on working,” Salaam said. “I’m going to keep on working because that’s just the reality. I always said that I’m not going to be sitting on the beach sipping Mai Tais, that’s not what this is about. There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s all about moving forward.
“This is the day the Lord has made,” he added.
Lawyers for the five have said the money was allocated on the basis of damages and injuries to each of them, but some critics have questioned the payout — and still believe they’re not entirely innocent, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“Reyes has told you on more than one occasion that it was him and him alone. The DNA matched. What more do you need?” Santana said.
Prior to final approval, attorney Michael Warren said last week the plaintiffs were “very relieved” at the step toward moving on with their lives.
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