Known as the Central Park Five, Raymond Santana, then 14, Kevin Richardson, 14, Korey Wise, 16, Antron McCray, 15 and Yusef Salaam, 15 all confessed and were convicted of participating in multiple crimes. But the one that is remembered is that of jogger Trisha Meili’s rape.
On April 19, 1989, more than 30 young men terrorized New York’s Central Park, teacher James Loughlin was beaten and jogger Patricia Meili was raped.
In 2002 the Central Park Five’s convictions were vacated after serial rapist Matias Reyes said he was Meili’s lone attacker. His DNA matched evidence found at the scene.
The Central Park Five said their confessions were coerced and won a $41 million payout.
When Bill de Blasio was elected New York City mayor in 2014 he ordered the $41 million settlement to go through for the five men.
All legal action finished in 2016 when the men were awarded a further $3.9 million from New York State.
NYPD mug shots taken of the Central Park Five on April 23, 1989. Top Row (L-R): Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana. Lower Row (L-R) Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Antron McCray
Now a Netflix new miniseries “When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Robert De Niro and Oprah Winfrey, is currently showing a different take on what happened that night depicting police and prosecutors on the case as abusive, racist and corrupt.
Eric Reynolds, the lead police officer in the Central Park Five case says the series is filled with ‘malicious’ lies. Reynolds says the Central Park Five did attack Meili and said, ‘That notion that there was none, no physical evidence, that tied them to the crime is an absolute lie.
Reynolds was a plainclothes officer in the Anti-Crime Unit on patrol with his partner on the night of April 19, 1989.
Reynolds retired in 2001 after a 20-year career where he rose to Detective Third Grade and earned department recognition multiple times for his police work.
Despite Reyes confession for rape, Reynolds said, ‘There was blood, semen, there was grass stains on Kevin Richardson’s underwear.’
Reynolds said inaccuracies in the Netflix new miniseries could cause people to threaten the lives of Central Park Five prosecutors Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer.
Eric Reynolds, who as a plainclothes officer arrested Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson, says that the four-part television adaptation is so filled with errors that it is ‘malicious recreation’.
Reynolds said: ‘It’s a malicious recreation, which has nothing to do with the facts other than they ended up arrested and going to jail.’
He believes the series is inflammatory by depicting members of the five looking badly beaten when they were arrested.
Reynolds told the DailyMail, ‘Please, someone, show me the pictures of them. Show me the injuries, show me the black eyes, show me the swollen faces because every single one of them that came out of that precinct had none of that.’
Reynolds (left) escorts Kevin Richardson, then 14, into New York City’s 24th Precinct on April 19, 1989. Reynolds told DailyMail TV he believes When They See Us is ‘a pack of lies’. He also points out, as can be seen in this photo, Richardson did not sustain a swollen left eye as the show claimed
“When They See Us” opens on the night of the ‘wilding’, where a mass of young men rushed through Central Park, casting the five very squarely as innocents caught up in events and on the fringes of any violence.
Reynolds said, ‘When I saw the opening scenes it was like watching a musical. I was flabbergasted. That absolutely was not what occurred.’
In one scene prosecutor Linda Fairstein, played by Felicity Hufffman, orders detectives: ‘Go into the projects and stop every motherf****r you see.’ Eric Reynolds says: ‘It just never happened.’
‘As detectives, we work on evidence. We don’t go rounding people up and Linda Fairstein wasn’t even there the first day. It just never happened,’ Reynolds said.
In another scene a man, most likely a depiction of teacher John Loughlin, is shown being felled by a single punch while three of the five look on.
Reynolds said, ‘It did not happen that way. They were beating him with a pipe. They beat him so savagely that both of his eyes were shut and he had a cracked skull.’
Testimony from one who was there stated that Yusef Salaam was wielding that pipe and ‘going to work on him.’
Another scene saw the boys part of a crowd halfheartedly harassing a couple on a tandem bike. Again Reynolds watched in outrage at what he said is ‘total fiction.’
He explained, ‘The group lay in wait. They stretched out across the roadway and held hands to knock them off their bike. It was a couple on the tandem and the woman said she was scared for her life.
‘Her boyfriend just told her, ‘Put your head down and pedal as hard as you can.’ And they rode through them as they were grabbing at her clothes and by the grace of God they got away.’
Pointing to the couple attacked on their tandem he said it was the violence, not the ethnicity, of its perpetrators that mattered to police officers.
He said, ‘I don’t understand how that’s a race issue if you’re in the middle of a park riding on a bike in the middle of the night and a group of males, whether they’re black, white or whatever, you know are standing on the road with the express purpose of knocking you off the bike.
‘As a woman, I think you’re going to be scared out of your mind.’
Reynolds was in the room for all of those interviews. He said, ‘Their parents are there, they’re getting their rights read. We ask them what happened in the park?’
According to Reynolds, they did not ask the kids about the rape directly. The first two kids told almost identical stories. They said they’d been in the park with a bunch of kids who were beating people up but they didn’t touch anybody.
Reynolds wrote them up and let them go home.
Then, he said, ‘The third kid is Kevin Richardson. He’s there with his mother. We read him his rights. We ask him what happened. He said the exact same thing the other kids said – everyone else was beating people up but I didn’t touch anyone.’
Then one of the detectives noticed he had a scratch on his face. They asked him how he’d got it and at first he blamed Reynolds’s partner for the injury.
When told the officer was next door and would be asked if that was true Richardson changed his story.
Reynolds said, ‘He said, “Okay, it was the female jogger.” And I’ll be honest with you I almost fell off my seat because I was not expecting him to say that.
‘And then he starts to go into the story of the attack on the jogger. No coercion. We didn’t even think he was involved. He starts to give it up right there in front of us.’
Ultimately police questioned 37 boys and, contrary to Netflix’s dramatic depiction, there was nothing random or rushed in the five who were ultimately charged.
They became the Central Park Five, he said, not because cops were anxious to pin the crime on someone but because they implicated themselves and each other when interviewed.
In DuVernay’s drama particular attention is given to Korey Wise’s story. He is shown accompanying his friend Salaam to the station, an act of loyalty that sees him embroiled in the case when he wasn’t even on the cops’ radar.
Reynolds is exasperated by this. He said: ‘Korey Wise was named by other participants in the wilding that day. We went specifically to look for him.
‘When detectives asked a couple of people in front of their building if they had seen him they said they saw him earlier and he said, “Y’all better stay away from me because the cops are after me.”‘
When they asked him why, Reynolds said, the people in front of the building stated that Wise had told them: ‘You see that woman in Central Park last night? That was us.’
This account was committed to written statements.
Reynolds also pointed to the fact that the first thing Wise did when he got home late on April 19 was wash the clothes he’d been wearing.
When they went to pick up Antron McCray – whom Reynolds had earlier let go – the detective asked him to go and get the clothes he had been wearing the night before.
Reynolds said, ‘He comes back out and he’s got on a sweat suit. The front of it is completely covered with mud from head to toe. What could he possibly be doing that he’s completely flat in mud?’
Reynolds said the officers who discovered the jogger told him she was ‘covered from head to toe in mud.’
Several weeks after his police confession to participating in the attack on Meili, McCray repeated this admission, while minimizing his own role, to the pre-trial psychologist appointed by his own team.
Meanwhile, while Wise was being held on Riker’s Island awaiting trial, a female friend came forward with information she thought would exonerate him but in fact only bolstered the case against him.
Reynolds said, ‘He called this young lady and she was surprised to hear his voice. She was like, ‘Korey, what did you do? They’re saying that you raped this woman.’
‘He says, ‘I didn’t rape her. I only held her legs while Kevin Richardson f***** her.’
That scenario would make Wise every bit as guilty of rape as Richardson under New York law.
The crime, the trial and the convictions of the four black and one Hispanic teen were the focus of public outrage and racial conflict at the time.
Reynolds points to all the physical evidence that was never refuted at trial: hair and blood ‘consistent’ with the jogger’s was found on the boys’ sneakers and clothing, along with semen in the boys’ underwear.
The fact that none of them claimed to be able to finish the act of penetrative sex is the reason, Reynolds said, that their semen was only found on the inside of their underwear and clothing rather than on Meili.
Reynolds said, ‘They were not cleared. The convictions were vacated. They were given the opportunity to have another trial but there was no reason to retry because they had already done their time.
‘The reason they were granted that is because Matias Reyes came forward with the fictitious claim that he had attacked her alone.
‘The medical evidence alone proves that it was not one person that attacked her. There was plenty of physical evidence.
‘That notion that there was none, no physical evidence, that tied them to the crime is an absolute lie.’
Asked about what evidence was found, Reynolds said, ‘There was blood, semen, there was grass stains on Kevin Richardson’s underwear.’
He explained, ‘When I heard [about his confession] I was like, ‘Really? He did it alone? There’s just no way.’ Yeah, he was involved. He was just one of the perps that got away.’
Reynolds explained, ‘Reyes comes forward to say he did it by himself and he can prove it because he knows something we don’t know. And he’s correct.
‘She had a fanny pack with her Walkman in it and he took it and he threw it away.
‘She didn’t have it on her in the hospital. She was in a coma for 50 something days. She couldn’t tell us that she’d had one and it had been stolen, right?
‘But then Armstrong found that a detective had taken some notes of an interview with Korey Wise. And Korey said that there was a guy named ‘Rudy,’ who he said took her fanny pack and her Walkman.’
Reynolds believes that Rudy was Reyes and his name muddled up by Wise who has hearing difficulties.
He said, ‘He told that to us on April 20, 1989, the day after. So how in the world does Korey Wise know about her fanny pack and Walkman in 1989 when Reyes says he knows about it because he was the only person there?’
The Armstrong report noted, ‘At the time of this interview the police had no way of knowing that the jogger had a Walkman or that she carried it in a pouch.’
It said that, based on the evidence including Reyes confession, ‘it was more likely than not that the defendants participated in an attack upon the jogger.’
The report stated, ‘the most likely scenario for the events of April 19, 1989 was that the defendants came up on the jogger and subjected her to the same kind of attack, albeit with sexual overtones, that they inflicted upon other victims in the park that night.
‘Perhaps attracted to the scene by the jogger’s screams, Reyes either joined in the attack as it was ending or waited until the defendants have moved on to their next victims before descending upon her himself, raping her and inflicting upon her the brutal injuries that almost caused her death.’
Reynolds’s view is supported by both the medical opinion of Meili’s two Urgent Care Physicians at Metropolitan Hospital and the Armstrong Report.
Dr Robert Kurtz is on record as saying Meili had injuries consistent with a sharp, clean blade or object while Reyes’ confession only mentioned a blunt object.
Dr Kurtz noted that Reyes, ‘never said he had used a knife, or broken glass, or broken bottle or something like that that would have been able to inflict a clean laceration.’
Dr Jane Mauer, a surgeon who helped reconstruct Meili’s face recalled seeing hand print bruising on her thighs.
Dr Mauer said, ‘You could see the four fingers and the thumb indented in her skin to hold her legs apart.’
It led her to doubt that this could be the work of one man.
Moreover the Armstrong Report concluded Reyes could not be considered a reliable witness.
It revealed a fellow inmate in prison with Reyes said Reyes told him ‘the attack on the jogger was already in progress when he joined, attracted to the scene by the jogger’s screams.’
Reynolds does not believe that the five should still be in prison. He said, ‘They did their time. They paid the price for what they did. You know, that’s it.’
Reynolds said of When They See Us, ‘We can’t even call it a sanitized version. It’s a malicious recreation, which has nothing to do with the facts other than they ended up arrested and going to jail.
‘I think that’s the only thing in it that stays true to what actually occurred.’
He said, ‘This has got people so divided and so at each other’s throats it’s sad. Let me tell you there’s a lot of people who believe that they are guilty but they’re not going to say anything because they don’t want to get shouted down. They don’t want to be called racist.’
The crime, the trial and the convictions of the four black and one Hispanic teen were the focus of public outrage and racial conflict at the time.
The left keeps bringing up Donald Trump, then a real estate mogul in New York, for taking out newspaper advertisements regarding the Central Park Five, calling for the return of the death penalty.
But Reynolds insisted, ‘Look, this idea that there’s outside pressure for us to wrap it up and get some suspects is totally false.
‘Nobody was looking at the newspaper and saying, ‘Donald Trump’s mad, we’d better do something.’ And the jury weren’t asking to see the newspaper, they were asking to see the evidence.’
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