In an article about the election of Yusef Salaam, of the “Central Park Five,” to the New York City Council last week, The New York Times’ Jeffery C. Mays indignantly cited the full-page ad Donald Trump had taken out at the time, which never mentioned the Central Park rape but decried crime in the city and called for reinstitution of the death penalty.
Mays described the case against The Five thus:
“The confessions of Mr. Salaam and the four others who were convicted alongside him were coerced. There was no DNA evidence tying the teenagers — Mr. Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Antron McCray — to the brutal attack. Mr. Trump’s racist rantings only inflamed [racial] tensions.”
Two of those claims are laughably false, and the third is utterly meaningless.
Meaningless: It’s a sleight of hand to say that there was “no DNA evidence” tying The Five to the crime. Yeah, that’s probably because in 1989, no one would have been looking for DNA.
Back then, DNA testing was a novel scientific technique. It required much larger samples than are necessary today, and the sample couldn’t be contaminated and the tests weren’t reliable.
You might as well complain that the police didn’t use cellphone tracking, either.
In New York, only a few criminal courts had even been faced with the decision of whether to admit DNA evidence, and no appellate court had ruled on its admissibility.
On the eve of the trial a year later, semen found on the jogger was sent to the FBI for testing (result inconclusive) over the ferocious objections of lawyers for The Five, who argued that “DNA testing is an area still under study and under consideration and has not been regarded in the scientific community of sufficient reliability as to permit its admission into evidence.”
Investigators would have been insane to count on DNA to prove their case. No effort would have been made to collect and preserve it. Just three months before the rape, serial killer Ted Bundy had been executed without anyone thinking to run a DNA test.
Pre-DNA, the way investigators proved their cases was with other evidence — blood and grass stains on The Five’s underwear, for example — interviewing suspects and witnesses and, if they were lucky and the evidence compelling, getting the suspects to confess. That’s exactly how the case against the Central Park Five was made.
Here’s just some of the evidence against The Five:
— When Santana was being driven to the precinct house for general mayhem, he blurted out: “I had nothing to do with the rape. All I did was feel the woman’s tits.”
At this point, the jogger’s body hadn’t been found yet. The police knew nothing about any rape.
— Another boy, picked up with Richardson, told the police that he knew who did “the murder,” naming McCray. Richardson concurred, saying, “Yeah. That’s who did it.”
Again, the police were unaware of any rape or murder.
The next morning, Richardson pointed to the 102nd Street transverse, telling officers, “This is where we got her.”
— Dennis Commedo, part of the larger group wilding that night, told the police that, when he ran into Richardson, he had said, “We just raped somebody.”
— Two of Wise’s friends said that the next day, he told them, “You heard about that woman that was beat up and raped in the park last night? That was us!”
— Another boy arrested for some of the other attacks, but not the rape, told detectives (on videotape) that he overheard Santana and a friend laughing about how they’d “made a woman bleed.”
— A number of the youths brought in the night of the attack implicated Salaam (our newly elected councilman) in the jogger’s rape.
Orlando Escobar, for example, told police he saw Salaam (our newly elected councilman) and others leaving the 102nd Street transverse where the jogger was raped.
— Blood stains were found on Salaam’s jacket. (He’s our newly elected councilman.)
— Salaam (our newly elected councilman) confessed to the rape after the detective questioning him said that fingerprints had been found on the jogger’s clothing. Why would he do that — unless he knew the prints might be his?
Four of The Five gave videotaped confessions, at least three of them in the presence of parents or guardians. Defense attorneys spent weeks attacking the confessions as “coerced,” but two multicultural juries and the trial judge concluded that the confessions were voluntary. Taking the other side is some bimbo with a Netflix documentary, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.
Moreover, recall that when The Five confessed, no one knew whether the jogger would emerge from her coma and be able to identify her attackers.
Forget embarrassing — it would be career-ending for a detective to have coerced confessions from The Five, only to have the jogger wake up and exclaim, My boyfriend did it! (That was one of the theories shouted by the anti-jogger protesters outside the courthouse, along with the allegation that she was meeting her drug dealer in the park.)
More than a decade later, when psychopathic killer Matias Reyes came forward to “confess” that he alone had raped the jogger — a crime for which he would face no additional punishment — DNA testing on the semen could prove only that he’d raped her, not that he’d acted alone, or whether, as a former cellmate says, he’d heard the jogger’s screams and ran to join the attack in progress.
It was always known that there were other rapists. Thus, in her summation to the jury, prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer said: “Others, who were not caught, raped her and got away.”
Under the law, anyone who participated in the attack was guilty of her rape, even if he “only held her legs down while Kevin f—ed her,” as Wise confided to a friend’s sister. (The sister volunteered this information to the police, thinking it would help him.)
Reyes not only faced no additional punishment for his “confession,” but he was rewarded with a favorable prison transfer. But his word is the sole fact on which the “exoneration” of The Five rests. The police were prohibited from interviewing Reyes. He was not given a polygraph. There was no hearing to determine his credibility. His own lawyer described Reyes as a “psychopath who cannot separate fact from fancy.” (He said, for example, that the jogger got up and ran away after he savagely raped her.)
Newly elected councilman Salaam and the Times’ Mays contend that the case against The Five was racism, pure and simple. Salaam says the single, solitary reason he and the others were accused was that “black and brown people” were “instantly [deemed] guilty, without a chance of proving their innocence.”
“Black and brown people” were not only deemed guilty — they were guilty. Reyes, the one even liberals admit was guilty, is “brown.”
Indeed, the only possible suspects were “black and brown”: the youths wilding in the park that night, violently attacking park-goers, including other runners, a couple on a tandem bike and a taxi driver. At least one male jogger was hospitalized after being knocked to the ground, kicked, punched and beaten with a pipe and a stick.
If The Five were accused only because they were “black or brown,” why weren’t any of the other 37 youths arrested that night charged with the jogger’s rape? Why these five? As I understand it, the cops’ rationale was: Others identified them as the rapists, and they confessed. On videotape. After being given rest, food and water. Four of the five in the presence of adult relatives.
As for Trump increasing racial tensions, a 28-year-old investment banker going for a run had been brutalized so badly that she’d lost three-quarters of her blood. Her case was initially assigned to the homicide unit because none of her doctors thought she’d survive the night.
I think the Central Park rape would have heightened racial “tensions” without any nudging from Trump.
Finally, Reyes’ “confession” actually proved that at least one of The Five was there. In 1989, Wise said someone he thought was named “Rudy” had stolen the jogger’s Walkman. The officer’s contemporaneous notes state: “persons present when girl raped. … Rudy — played with tits/took walkman.”
At that time, the detectives had no idea that the jogger had been carrying a Walkman. Thirteen years later, Reyes said he stole it. How did Wise know a Walkman had been stolen if he wasn’t there?
This was such an important fact that the DA pushing for The Five’s convictions to be vacated lied about it. In support of the motion to vacate, the district attorney’s office stressed that, “None of the defendants mentioned the jogger’s Walkman.” (Paragraph 92, in Assistant District Attorney Nancy E. Ryan’s Affirmation in Response to Motion To Vacate Judgment of Conviction.)
Salaam cites Scripture a lot. Everyone involved in the “exoneration” of The Five ought to rememberProverbs 19:9: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.”
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