WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday stood by claims he made about five men who were wrongly convicted for the brutal rape of a female jogger in New York City’s Central Park 30 years ago.
Dubbed the “Central Park Five,” the men have faced renewed attention after becoming the subjects of a Netflix miniseries about them.
The attack made national headlines in 1989 as a sign that crime in the city had spiraled out of control. The victim in the case, a 28-year-old investment banker, nearly died from the incident and was left with no memory of it.
Amid the intense media attention, Trump, then a real estate developer in New York, spoke out about the case and took out a full-page ad in several of the city’s newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Asked by a reporter outside the White House whether he would apologize to the five men, Trump said: “Why do you bring this question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up.”
“You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that,” he said, referring to one of the prosecutors in the case.
The case raised questions about race as a factor in the criminal justice system. All five of the men – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam – were black or Hispanic, while the victim was white.
The men were all between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time of the attack. They were imprisoned for between five and 13 years.
Though they all confessed after long police interrogations, they each later recanted their statements, saying they had been exhausted and coerced by police officers.
Their convictions were overturned in 2002, after another man confessed to the crime and DNA tests confirmed his guilt.
In 2014, New York City agreed to pay more than $40 million to the five men.
(Reporting by Makini Brice and Jeff Mason; Editing by Tom Brown)