New York City's $40 million settlement in the Central Park 5 case
is "a disgrace," says Donald Trump, who claims justice has not taken place.
"Settling doesn't mean innocence, but it indicates incompetence on several levels," Trump said in an opinion piece Saturday in the New York Daily News
. "This case has not been dormant, and many people have asked why it took so long to settle? It is politics at its lowest and worst form."
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Trump said he agrees with a detective close to the case who called the settlement "the heist of the century."
The deal grants the settlement to five men who were falsely convicted in the vicious 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger. It still needs the approval of the city comptroller and a federal judge.
The five black and Hispanic defendants were found guilty as teenagers in 1990 in the attack on 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili, a white woman who had gone for a run in the park.
The beating and rape was one of the most notorious crimes in New York City history and came to be seen as a lurid symbol of the city's racial and class divide and its rampant crime. It gave rise to the term "wilding" for urban mayhem by marauding teenagers.
The convictions of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Kharey Wise — who were 14 to 16 years old when they were arrested — were tossed in 2002
after convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes told authorities he alone attacked Meili. DNA tests confirmed he sexually assaulted her.
When Meili was found in the brush, more than 75 percent of her blood had drained from her body and her skull was smashed. She was in a coma for 12 days, left with permanent damage, and remembers nothing about the attack.
"What about the other people who were brutalized that night, in addition to the jogger?" Trump says in Saturday's op-ed. "One thing we know is that the amount of time, energy and money that has been spent on this case is unacceptable. The justice system has a lot to answer for, as does the City of New York regarding this very mishandled disaster. Information was being leaked to newspapers by someone on the case from the beginning, and the blunders were frequent and obvious."
Trump said he hopes the deal will not meet with final approval.
"As a long-time resident of New York City, I think it is ridiculous for this case to be settled — and I hope that has not yet taken place," Trump wrote. "Forty million dollars is a lot of money for the taxpayers of New York to pay when we are already the highest taxed city and state in the country. The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city."
Trump called for officials to speak again to detectives on the case and to listen to the facts.
"These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels," said Trump. "What about all the people who were so desperately hurt and affected? I hope it’s not too late to continue to fight and that this unfortunate event will not have a repeat episode any time soon — or ever."
In 1989, Trump helped ramp up the city's fury against the teens by taking out full-page advertisements demanding the death penalty, reports the News
On Friday, Reyes expressed remorse for the attack and for the Central Park 5.
“I am ashamed of what I did,” Reyes said in an interview from the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, N.Y. "Every day I have to live with what I did to her. Those boys didn’t do it."
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