A forgotten co-defendant of the so-called “Central Park Five,” whose convictions in a notorious 1989 rape in New York City were thrown out more than a decade later, is set to have his conviction on a related charge overturned.
A hearing was scheduled for Monday afternoon in the case of Steven Lopez, who was arrested along with five other Black and Latino teenagers in the rape and assault on Trisha Meili but reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to the lesser charge of robbing a male jogger.
The brutal assault on Meili, a 28-year-old white investment banker who was in a coma for 12 days after the attack, was considered emblematic of New York City’s lawlessness in an era when the city recorded 2,000 murders a year.
Five teenagers were convicted in the attack on Meili and served six to 13 years in prison. Their convictions were overturned in 2002 after evidence linked a convicted serial rapist and murderer, Matias Reyes, to the attack.
The Central Park Five, now known as the “Exonerated Five,” won a $40m settlement from the city and inspiring books, movies, and television shows.
Lopez, now 48, has not received a settlement, and his case has been nearly forgotten in the years since he pleaded guilty to robbery in 1991 to avoid the more serious rape charge.
Lopez’s expected exoneration was first reported in the New York Times.
“We talk about the Central Park Five, the Exonerated Five, but there were six people on that indictment,” the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told the Times. “And the other five who were charged, their convictions were vacated. And it’s now time to have Mr. Lopez’s charge vacated.”
The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, but Meili went public in 2003 and published a book titled I Am the Central Park Jogger.
Trump said in 2019 he would not apologize for his harsh comments in 1989 about the Central Park Five, the five black and Latino men who as teenagers, were wrongly convicted of the brutal rape of a jogger in New York City.
He stated: “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.”
“If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case — so we’ll leave it at that,” he added, referring to the former prosecutor who was running the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit at the time.