Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City finally closed one of his city’s — and America’s — most gaping racial wounds by settling this month with the so-called “Central Park Five” for $40 million. The case of the Central Park jogger — a white investment banker who was raped and brutally assaulted in 1989 — inflamed racial hysteria, especially when New York police produced five African American and Latino kids between ages 14 and 16 who allegedly committed the crime for fun. (Donald Trump took out a newspaper ad demanding the death penalty, even though the victim survived.) Kharey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana Jr., were all convicted and served between seven and 13 years in prison before a serial rapist who should have been the top suspect all along confessed to the crimes in 2002. DNA samples confirmed that he was the attacker.
Nonetheless, former mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to defend the disgraceful police tactics that led to coerced confessions. De Blasio helped restore his city’s honor and credibility by settling a lawsuit by the five men and declaring on Monday, “I think that the moral issue is quite clear.” It’s been clear for a long time.