A Sixth Central Park Jogger Suspect Has Been Cleared of All Charges

Reuters reports that New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has resigned. Central Park Five, a gang of Black and Latino adolescents unfairly convicted in 1989 for the rape and attempted murder of an unarmed white lady, has had one of their co-defendants exonerated of a related conviction.

One of Trisha Meili’s horrifying injuries became the focus of sensationalist media coverage when Steven Lopez, 15, was named in the indictment along with other Black and Latino teens for the nighttime rape and attempted murder. A bargain with prosecutors allowed Lopez to plead guilty to robbing a male jogger on the same night as Meili’s attack, and he was sentenced to between one-half and four-and-a-half years in state prison for the crime.

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Prosecutors in Manhattan and a lawyer for defendant Ronny Lopez filed a move in New York State Supreme Court on Monday to dismiss the 17-year-guilty old’s plea, claiming it was involuntary, unconstitutional, and based on fraudulent witness claims.

When Eric Shapiro Lopez, Lopez’s defense attorney, spoke to Lopez in court, he remarked, “What happened to you was a great wrong and an American injustice.” We’ve had to wait 30 years for justice, and I’m sorry about that. Lopez’s long, greying beard appeared to be tearing up as he spoke. Local media used the attack as a symbol of New York City’s growing crime rates in the 1980s.

A Sixth Central Park Jogger Suspect Has Been Cleared of All Charges
A Sixth Central Park Jogger Suspect Has Been Cleared of All Charges

The New York Police Department’s detained youth were regularly referred to as “animals” in media reports. Donald Trump, then a prominent real estate developer in the city, ran full-page advertising in city newspapers asking for the boys’ execution decades before he would become president of the United States.

Later, when the genuine assailant confessed and was linked to the crime by DNA evidence, the five lads condemned at trial were exonerated. The case became a symbol of judicial overreach, racial stereotyping by law enforcement and news outlets, and police officers coercing innocent people into confessing.

The Exonerated Five, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam, spent years in prison. They filed a case against the city, which was resolved in 2014 for $41 million. Lopez was not a defendant in that litigation, and his narrative has frequently been forgotten in reportage of his former co-defendants’ exoneration.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, there is no physical evidence linking Lopez to the attacks on either jogger, and the witness accounts implicating him have been recanted. This, combined with Lopez’s age at the time, rendered the plea involuntary, according to Bragg.

“We wish you serenity and recovery, Mr. Lopez,” the court remarked after dropping the indictment. “Thank you,” Lopez said, his sole comment in court. “It’s so ordered,” the judge said as Lopez rose to shake the hand of the lead prosecutor.

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