Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam is now running for City Council in New York City, a feat that seemed impossible when he and four other teens were convicted of raping the Central Park jogger in 1990.
Once known as the Central Park Five, all of them were exonerated in 2002.
In a fundraising tweet for his campaign, Salaam, 49, referenced the 1989 ads then-real estate developer Donald J. Trump spent $85,000 to run targeting the group. Now that Trump has been indicted for his own alleged crimes, Salaam believes he is one of the people responsible for the attacks on civil liberties that happened while he was in the White House and on Jan. 6, 2021 when he was on his way out.
He wrote, “Here is my message to you, Mr. Trump: In response to the multiple federal and state criminal investigations that you are facing, you responded by warning of “potential death and destruction,” and by posting a photograph of yourself with a baseball bat, next to a photo of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. These actions, just like your actions leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, are an attack on our safety.
Thirty-four years ago, your full-page ad stated, in all caps: “CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.”
You were wrong then, and you are wrong now. The civil liberties of all Americans are grounded in the U.S. Constitution, and many of us fight every day to uphold those rights, even in the face of those like you who seek to obliterate them.”
Salaam referred to Trump’s arrest as “karma.”
In 1989, Salaam and four others – Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, and Antron McCray were accused of assaulting a woman later revealed to be Trisha Mieli. The New York banker was raped and viciously beaten during an evening run in April.
Donald Trump ran four full-page ads in the New York Times that year with the headline, “Bring Back the Death Penalty, Bring Back Our Police! The ad read, in part: “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”
In 1990, all five teens were convicted in the case.
Salaam, Santana and McCray, 16, were convicted of rape, assault and robbery. In separate trials, Wise was found guilty of sexual abuse, first-degree assault, and riot and Richardson was found guilty on all charges.
But in 2002, after a chance meeting in jail, convicted serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to the crime providing DNA and details only the attacker would have known. The five men’s convictions were vacated and in 2013, they were awarded $41M.
The case was dramatized in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us.
“I was waiting for him to say, ‘Damn, I got it wrong,’” Salaam told Yahoo News when the 2019 series revived interest in the facts of the case that led to the exoneration. “‘Let me take out a full page ad apologizing.’”
Instead, he told the New York Times in 2019, “You have people on both sides of that.”
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