Steven Hirsch / AP
NEW YORK (AP) – A co-defendant of the so-called Central Park Five, whose conviction in the infamous 1989 rape of a runner was served more than a decade later, has been overturned. bleach on Monday.
Steven Lopez was exonerated at the request of both Lopez’s attorney and prosecutor at the Manhattan trial.
Lopez was 15 years old when he was arrested with five other Black and Latino teenagers in the rape and assault of Trisha Meili but reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to the lesser charges he and several others sought. killed a male runner that same night.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg told the judge Monday that a review of the case found that Lopez had unwittingly pleaded guilty “in the face of false statements” and was under “great outside pressure.” ” He served more than three years behind bars before being released in the early 1990s.
Lopez, now 48, did not make a statement in court and left without speaking to reporters.
“Mr. Lopez is seeking privacy at this time,” said his attorney, Eric Shapiro Renfroe.
During the hearing, the defense attorney told his client: “I believe what has happened to you is a profound injustice and an American tragedy. … I am pleased to have be here today with DA Bragg so we can get your name back.” “
The brutal attack on Meili, a 28-year-old white investment banker who was in a coma 12 days after the attack, is seen as a symbol of New York City’s lawlessness in an era where The city records 2,000 homicides a year.
Her assault happened one night when several other people were attacked by a group of young people in the park.
Five teenagers were convicted in the Meili attack and served six to 13 years in prison. Their sentencing came in 2002 after evidence linked a convicted rapist and serial killer, Matias Reyes, to the assault. Reyes told investigators that he alone was responsible for the attack on Meili.
Prosecutors reviewing the case concluded the teenagers’ confession, made after hours of questioning, was profoundly flawed.
“Comparison of statements reveals disturbing discrepancies,” they wrote in court papers at the time. “The five defendants’ accounts vary on the specifics of almost every major aspect of the crime.”
Prosecutors said Monday that claims involving Lopez in that night’s violence are also unreliable.
Other individuals who linked Lopez to attacks on male and female runners later withdrew their charges in their civil records, prosecutors wrote in court papers. The newspaper added that the male runner never identified Lopez as one of the attackers.
Central Park Five, now sometimes referred to as the “Exonerated Five,” won a $40 million settlement from the city and inspired books, movies, and TV shows.
Lopez has not received a settlement, and his case has been largely forgotten in the years since he pleaded guilty to robbery in 1991 to avoid being charged with more serious rape. He was pardoned for the first time in The New York Times.
The AP usually doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault, but Meili went public in 2003 and published a book titled I’m a Central Park Runner.