BBC News, Dec. 19, 2002
A New York judge has dismissed the convictions of all five men accused of a notorious rape attack in Central Park 13 years ago.
State Justice Charles Tejada, reaching his decision in less time than expected, dismissed all indictments against the five black and Hispanic men – each of whom have served at least seven years in prison.
The ruling came just two weeks after Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recommended dropping all charges.
At the time of the original trial, the case made headlines round the world for the brutal nature of the attack and the high levels of crime in New York.
The victim – a young white female jogger – was left for dead in the park, and was so badly raped and beaten that she remained in a coma for several weeks.
She has since gone on to make a full recovery.
Prosecutors had recommended the convictions be dismissed on the basis of “new evidence”, which is thought to include the confession of an imprisoned serial rapist, Matias Reyes, and a DNA match linking him to the crime scene.
In contrast, no forensic links were found with any of the five accused men.
The primary evidence against them was in the form of videotaped confessions, which their supporters say were coerced out of them.
All five – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise – were only teenagers when arrested.
Correspondents say Thursday’s verdict will almost certainly open the door to civil suits against the city – and mean that the five, most of whom are now in their late 20s, will no longer have to register as sex offenders.
The five men are now out of jail, apart from Mr Santana who is still in custody on a separate charge.
On the night of the attack, 19 April 1989, dozens of youths roamed Central Park, harassing cyclists and runners in random attacks known as “wilding”.
The 28-year-old female investment banker – who was left for dead in a pool blood – has no memory of what happened, preventing her from helping to identify any suspects.
Matias Reyes, 31, made his confession from inside prison where he is serving a life sentence for raping four women, killing one of them. He said he had “found religion”.
“I was a monster,” he said in a television interview. “I did some real bad things to so many people and harmed them in so many ways.”
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