Five men were tried and convicted in the brutal 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in Central Park. The initial story of the crime, as told by the police and prosecutors, was that the five were part of a larger gang that rampaged through Central Park. The story was used by politicians and sensational news reports to inflame racial tensions.
The five black and Hispanic men, ages 14 to 16 at the time of their arrests, claimed that incriminating statements they had given had been coerced by the authorities. In December 2002, an investigation found DNA and other evidence that the woman had been raped and beaten not by the five teenagers but by another man, Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer who had confessed to acting alone in the attack.
All five men were exonerated, and the city settled with them for wrongful arrest and imprisonment.
Over the weekend, Donald Trump tweeted about lives “being shattered” by “a mere allegation”:
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Now one of the exonerated defendants in the Central Park Five case is saying that Trump had rushed to judgment in claiming he and the other defendants were guilty of a brutal 1989 attack and rape. Yusef Salaam noted that Trump took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the return of the death penalty after news of the assault gripped the nation.
In an interview on MSNBC, Salaam said:
Here you had Donald Trump taking out a full-page ad, two weeks in, rushing to judgment. Finding out 13 years later after he did all that that we were actually not the real culprits.
Trump had raised concerns Sunday about a lack of “due process” in the allegations of domestic abuse leveled against two former White House aides. Salaam, who was 15 at the time of his wrongful conviction, said he and the other defendants’ lives “were completely destroyed and devastated.” Trump was one of the most vocal figures at the time saying they were guilty.
“Any kind of dream or idea or goal that we had in life was quickly erased by this accusation,” Salaam said.
Trump said in 2016 that he still believes that the Central Park Five are guilty despite another man confessing to the crime and police having no DNA evidence linking the group to the scene:
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