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Sixth defendant in ‘Central Park Five’ jogger case is exonerated

A sixth man, a co-defendant of the ‘Central Park Five’ who were wrongly convicted in the 1989 rape of a New York jogger, was exonerated of a robbery conviction linked to the attack on Monday.  According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the more than three decades-old conviction of the defendant, Steven Lopez, was overturned.  Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said:  “Many have largely forgotten there were six. Today, Mr. Lopez joins the other five.”

Lopez was 15-years-old when he and five other teenagers were arrested in connection with the vicious beating and sexual assault of investment banker Trisha Meili, who testified she could not remember the attack.  The other defendants — Antron Mccray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — were convicted and served jail time. Lopez took a deal and pleaded guilty to robbing a male jogger in Central Park the same night as the attack to avoid a rape charge, and spent more than three years in prison.  District Attorney Bragg told the court: “Mr. Lopez was charged and pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and immense external pressure.”  

In 2002, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes admitted he was behind Meili’s attack. DNA testing and other evidence confirmed Reye’s confession, prompting then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to file a motion to vacate the Central Park Five’s convictions. The five men settled with New York City for $40 million for the time they served in prison — roughly $1 million for each year served.

Editorial credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

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