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City of New York pushed to settle Central Park jogger case

A decades-old case in which a woman was beaten and raped in Central Park is making headlines again. Lawmakers are asking New York City to settle with five men whose convictions were thrown out and who sued the city.

A man walks through Central Park after a snowstorm blanketed the park in New York, March 8. Attention has turned back to the Central Park jogger case, and a pending lawsuit the city of New York has with five men whose convictions in the case were overturned.

Gary Hershorn/Reuters

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New York is a safer, less fearful place than it was in 1990, when murders hit an all-time high, race relations were raw and the city felt under siege from drug dealers and gangs on "wilding" sprees. But one major piece of unfinished business from back then still hangs over the city and its legal system: the Central Park jogger case.

Five black and Hispanic boys were convicted that year in the rape and grisly beating of a white woman jogging in the park, and they went on to serve six to 13 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out in 2002 because of evidence linking someone else to the crime.

They sued police and prosecutors for $250 million. But the lawsuit has languished for a decade with no resolution in sight.

Now, a growing chorus of lawmakers is asking New York City to settle with the five men. And the pressure is likely to build in the coming weeks with the broadcast of a documentary on the case by filmmaker Ken Burns. It airs on PBS on April 16.

"All of us want this over, but it's about someone taking responsibility for what they did to us," said one of the five, Yusef Salaam, now 38. "The money can't buy back our lives."

The attack on 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili occurred on April 19, 1989. It was one of the most notorious crimes in New York City history and it mesmerized the nation, serving 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 teenagers.


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