AFRICANGLOBE – Donald Trump was angry about the settlement that New York City reached with the Central Park Five—the men who had, as teen-age boys, been wrongly convicted in the “Central Park jogger” rape case and been called animals by just about every institution in this city. The rape had been committed between 9 or 10 P.M., on an April evening in 1989; someone had beaten the jogger so badly and so brutally that by the time she was found, hours later, stripped and covered with mud, she had lost three quarters of her blood.
The police detective on the scene told reporters that her body had already turned cold; she wouldn’t have survived much longer. The woman, as she later let the world know in a book, was Trisha Meili, then an investment banker at Salomon Brothers; she had been bashed in the head and remembered nothing. The rest of New York, though, was sure of what had happened to her, and who was to blame. Here was the headline in the Daily News, on April 21, 1989:
WOLF PACK’S PREY
Female jogger near death after savage attack by roving gang
And the headline from the next day:
Park marauders call it
…and it’s street slang for going berserk
The Times, that same week, reported, “The youths who raped and savagely beat a young investment banker as she jogged in Central Park Wednesday night were part of a loosely organized gang of 32 schoolboys whose random, motiveless assaults terrorized at least eight other people over nearly two hours, senior police investigators said yesterday.” And: “she was raped by at least 4 of the 12 boys, Chief Colangelo said.” The five schoolboys who were eventually tried—Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Kharey Wise—were all Black or Hispanic.
And, in early May, 1989, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in the Daily News to say what he thought he knew about the case. Trump was on the front page of the papers often enough that season; the Post’s “SPLIT!” headline marking the end of his marriage would help fill the tabloid space between the teen-agers’ arrest and their conviction, as did “MARLA BOASTS TO HER PALS ABOUT DONALD: ‘BEST SEX I’VE EVER HAD,’ ” which quoted his then-mistress and second wife; soon, there was also coverage of his baroque business failures.
Perhaps he thought it gave him gravitas, that spring, to weigh in on the character of the teen-agers in the park: “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!” And his headline suggested what ought to be done with them:
BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY.
BRING BACK OUR POLICE!
The “park marauders,” the “roving gang,” the “crazed misfits” were fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen years old. The confessions they gave, as children, had been false, spun out under the pressure of hours of police interrogations. (They were, had anyone been ready to acknowledge it at the time, also inconsistent; they also had parents whom they weren’t able to see before their questioning.)
The boys were sent to prison. One of them, Kharey Wise, who at sixteen was the oldest and sentenced as an adult, was still there when, eleven years after the rape in the park, he happened to cross paths with a prisoner named Matias Reyes. It occurred to Reyes that it was his fault that Wise was there. He confessed that he, and he alone, had raped and beaten Meili, as he had raped other women over the years. He described to police how he had tied her with her clothes; it had been part of his M.O. in other cases, something that gave credibility to his confession.