The Central Park Jogger Case 20 Years Later

The jogger speaks as local activists seeks money for wrongly jailed teens

By Jim Scott
|  Monday, Apr 20, 2009  |  Updated 1:42 PM EDT
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The Central Park Jogger Case 20 Years Later

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New York City Councilman Charles Barron (R), seen here in a 2002 protest, has been publically advocating for the five wrongly accused men.

On the 20th anniversary of the infamous Central Park jogger case, the victim of the attack shared her story once again as local politicians and activists called  for compensation for the five men who were wrongly imprisoned for the rape.

The brutal rape and beating of the so-called Central Park jogger, Trisha Meili, shocked the world 20 years ago, polarized the city, and became an emblem for the lawlessness of New York in  the late Eighties.

Five black teenagers were convicted in the case in two stormy trials. Anton McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam served seven years in prison while Kharey Wise served fourteen years. The teens were reviled, called animals and imprisoned -- but they did not rape Meili. 

Their convictions were later vacated after DNA evidence supported the account of a jailed, serial rapist named Matias Reyes who confessed to the crime in 2002. The City Council should pass legislation compensating the teens who were falsely convicted and imprisoned, Councilman Charles Barron said on the steps of City Hall.

“The real crime occurred by the police department who forced a confession out of [then] teenagers," Barron said today in a statement. "The tactics used by police officers need to be addressed, challenged and stopped."

"Further, the city should be required to compensate the five victims and their families for the emotional, psychological and financial damages that they endured. I encourage my colleagues to join me in this call for justice.”

Twenty years later, emotions are still raw.

"Sometimes there are moments of frustration and getting angry at myself, and that can lead to that downward spiral," Meili told The New York Times." It’s trying to recognize those moments and take a step back and say, “Wait a minute. Look at what I have, and look at how far I’ve come. It’s a process."

Meili was running in the park when she was brutally attacked on April 19, 1989. The then 28-year-old Meili was so badly beaten that she had no memory of the incident and was in a coma for almost two weeks.

The attack and subsequent trials continued stir racial tensions in the city less than two years after Tawana Brawley's false rape allegations polarized the Big Apple.

Meili's identity was kept a secret for 14 years until she came forward and wrote a book about her recovery in 2003. Meili spoke to Meredith Vieira on the Today Show about her recovery and the outpouring of support she received after the attack.

 

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