Five black and Latino men wrongly convicted as teens in the explosive 1989 rape case of a white Central Park jogger have agreed to a $40 million settlement. The confidential deal, disclosed by an unidentified source who is not party to the lawsuit, still has to be approved by the city comptroller and then a federal judge, The New York Times reports. If the settlement goes through, it’ll end more than a decade of civil litigation for the Five and underscore a case that has come to symbolize the worst of New York City’s racist mob mentality at the time. Interviewed by Colorlines’ Akiba Solomon last December, one of the five, Yusef Salaam–15 at arrest, about 7 years served–said:
We’ve been in this loop for 20 years. … Since the film, I really think we the people are that much more driven in wanting to make sure not just that there’s justice for the Central Park Five but that there will never be another. Yes, we’ve gotten something out our lives back, but we’re still fighting for that final piece. It’s crazy. People ask me all the time, “How do you keep moving after all of this.” Sometimes I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience.
The Five’s convictions were vacated in 2002 after a single man, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes’ jailhouse confession to the brutal 1989 rape and assault of jogger, Trisha Meili. To the end, the Bloomberg administration vigorously fought the ensuing civil suit’s allegations of false arrest, malicious prosecution and racially motivated conspiracy, maintaining that authorities in 1989 had acted with good faith and were therefore not liable.
Mayor Ed Koch, now deceased, had described what was then known as The Central Park Jogger Case, as “the crime of the century.” The events of that tragic night, as well as its impact on the Five and the city, were revisited by the Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five.
A 2010 Associated Press investigation found that from 1999 through 2008, New York City had paid more than $1 billion to settle claims against the NYPD. This week, a state judge upheld a law allowing citizens to bring lawsuits against police officers for racial profiling. Also this week, Jonathan Fleming filed notice of intent to sue the city for $162 million. He was cleared and released this April* after spending nearly 25 years in prison for a 1989 murder he did not commit.
*Post has been updated.