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New Hope for the Central Park Five

Raymond Santana, right, Kevin Richardson, and Yusef Salaam, left, attend a rally at Foley Square, in New York. (Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II)

They spent more than 13 years in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Since then, the Central Park Five, as the five men are known, have spent another 10 years waiting for the city of New York to settle a $250 million lawsuit they filed a year after their exoneration in 2002. Now, with a new hearing–and a new mayor–the men have new hope that their long wait might be over.

In a hearing in federal court, lawyers for the five men asked a judge to contact a woman who was earlier attacked by the same man who committed the crime they were accused of.

The attorneys are seeking a conversation with the unnamed woman who was assaulted by Matias Reyes, the man whose DNA and confession later led to the Central Park Five’s exoneration. The incident took place on April 17, 1989, just two days before the infamous attack for which the Central Park Five served time, but it received much less publicity. However, the group’s lawyers say the woman could help them determine why authorities didn’t charge Reyes earlier.
“We would like to talk to her,” lawyer Jonathan Moore said after a hearing. “Some of the same investigators who worked that case worked this case.”

Moore said the woman’s description of her assailant helped police finally capture Reyes.

Also giving the men hope that their long journey might be nearing an end is the election of a new mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio, who has signaled that he is sympathetic to their plight. During an interview with Huff Post Live, filmmaker Ken Burns, whose 2012 documentary told the story of the Central Park Five, said that he believes the new mayor will finally settle the case.

“Bill de Blasio, the mayor-elect, has agreed to settle this case, and though this is justice delayed way too long, and that is justice denied, [they] will not only be exonerated … but they will have justice, they will see some closure, they will be able to be made whole,” Burns said.

The next hearing for the civil suit is scheduled for January 21.

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