(L-R) Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam attend the 2012 NYC Doc Festival Closing Night Screening of "The Central Park Five" in 2012 in New York City. (Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
For the second time in a month, New York City’s top fiscal official has called for the city to settle a $250 million federal civil rights suit brought by the men known as the Central Park Five, adding that his office is exploring various options to bring the issue to a close.
The case dates back some 24 years, when, five juvenile males — four of them Black and one Latino — were convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. The five were later exonerated of the crime, which received nationwide attention as a symbol of the perception of lawlessness in the nation’s largest city.
“It’s time – beyond time – for this issue to come to a conclusion,” said New York City Comptroller John C. Liu, in an interview with BET.com. “I have called for a settlement and I am doing so again. This has dragged on long enough. I feel it more strongly now than ever.”
As comptroller, Liu’s does not have jurisdiction over the city’s ability to settle cases, but his office plays a significant role in civil suit settlements. His office sets a budget for settlement offers and must approve any payout. His call for the settlement of the case hs grown more intense.
He said he has been disappointed by the disposition of the Corporation Counsel, the New York City law office.
"As we've said before, the City stands by the decisions made by the detectives and prosecutors," said Celeste Koeleveld, a city lawyer who defends New York in public safety matters, in a statement.
“The charges against the plaintiffs and other youths were based on abundant probable cause, including confessions that withstood intense scrutiny, in full and fair pretrial hearings and at two lengthy public trials, with all of the decisions being affirmed by the appellate courts."
After harsh interrogation by the New York City Police Department, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise confessed to the crime. In 1990, they were convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from 5 to 15 years. They were cleared of the charges in 2002 when a man, who was serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to the rape.
Liu said that the matter of a settlement had gone unresolved for too long and that his office is “exploring options” to accelerate the settlement. He declined to offer specifics.
"This troubling case has spanned the administrations of four Mayors -- Edward Koch, David Dinkins, Rudolph Giuliani, and now Michael Bloomberg," Liu said.
"In the last year of his third term, Mayor Bloomberg has an historic opportunity to provide closure to all those involved. Let's hope that 2013 is the year when all parties help close this terrible chapter in our City's history, so that New Yorkers can finally put an end to the tragic 'Central Park Five' saga."
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