NEW YORK - Five black and Hispanic men wrongly imprisoned for the brutal 1989 rape and attempted murder of a white investment banker in Central Park have agreed to settle a lawsuit against New York City for $40 million, The New York Times reported.
The men, all teenagers from Harlem at the time, were falsely convicted of nearly killing 28-year-old Trisha Meili while ‘wilding’ through the park on a warm night in April of that year. If approved by the city comptroller and a judge, each man will be awarded about $1 million for each year spent in prison, the Times reported without identifying its source.
New York City officials told AFP they were not able to comment because of ongoing litigation.
The case was a crucible for tensions and fears in New York at a time when race relations were fraught, a crack cocaine epidemic ravaged poor communities, violent crime was rampant and the gulf between rich and poor gaped wide.
Meili went for a night run in northern Central Park, was ambushed on a dark path and dragged into a ravine where she was beaten, sexually assaulted and left for dead. She gradually recovered but had no memory of the attack, leaving police and prosecutors under intense pressure from media outlets and terrified New Yorkers to find the assailants.
Within hours, investigators picked up the five teenagers in a sweep of the area and interrogated them at length, often without the presence of an attorney or a parent at first. Despite dramatic holes in the case against them and no DNA match from the crime scene, all were convicted. The teenagers spent between six and 13 years in prison before a serial rapist confessed that he had attacked Meili alone. Their case was turned into a film, ‘The Central Park Five’ that premiered at Cannes in 2012.