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Ken Burns: De Blasio will settle ‘Central Park Five’ case

Nayaba Arinde | , Stephon Johnson | 11/14/2013, 1:13 p.m.
Central Park 5 Justice Bill Moore Photos

Attempts to contact the New York Police Department or the mayor’s office for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.

When the AmNews reached out to de Blasio, his spokesperson referred us back to a statement he made in January after City Comptroller John Liu wrote a letter to Bloomberg calling for a settlement.

“It’s long past time to heal these wounds,” said de Blasio in January. “Comptroller Liu is absolutely right in calling for an end to this painful chapter in our history. As a city, we have a moral obligation to right this injustice. It is in our collective interest—the wrongly accused, their families and the taxpayer—to settle this case and not let another year slip by without action.”

In the aforementioned letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Liu urged the city’s law department to settle with Salaam, McCray, Santana, Wise and Richardson in negotiations that the comptroller would facilitate. Liu even offered his boardroom as a venue for the discussions.

“As the trail of this case inevitably draws closer, litigation experience clearly demonstrates that now is an appropriate time for both parties to negotiate in earnest,” wrote Liu. “Prolonging the discovery process further only serves to increase the risk that city taxpayers will ultimately bear responsibility for significant attorneys’ fees incurred by plaintiffs.”

“With the changing of the administration, we are hoping for a settlement,” said Salaam. “Bloomberg has spent around $6 million trying to fight the settlement when he could just say, ‘Hey, we made a mistake.’ It’s that simple. But when the Central Park jogger case blew up, so many people just wanted blood. Mayor [Ed] Koch said, ‘We got ‘em. Now people are gonna really see how the justice system works.’ Well, this is how the justice system works.

“We were innocent, and this was a celebrated case, so it just goes to show how many other cases have innocent people convicted. Groups like the Innocence Project are getting convictions overturned all the time.”

Salaam continued, “Everyone knew this case was a sham, and when the sun came out, it was shown to be a travesty, and the real perpetrator who committed the crime confessed. It turns out that because they were not looking for the real person, he went on to kill a young Latina woman, and now her son is denied the chance to grow up with his mother. When an injustice is done, everyone suffers.”

Warren said that each of the five men is seeking $50 million a piece for the “prolonged injustice of this shameful case, where the failure to properly resolve this matter has been fueled by the likes of Linda Fairstein, who has made a very comfortable living off of what has been the misery inflicted on these young men, and Police Commissioner [Ray] Kelly, who has defended in the most unjustifiable manner police officers who were instrumental—along with Linda Fairstein, Elizabeth Lederer and Mike Sheehan—in manufacturing a wrongful conviction.

Warren continued, “Even in spite of the fact that the perpetrator of the crime has come forward, the present city administration still engages in this shameful intransigence in an attempt to legitimize the wrongful conviction of our clients. Enough is enough. But it is always up to the people to ensure that justice is served, and so we are expecting the de Blasio administration do what is right to make sure that justice is properly rendered.”