NEW YORK (FinalCall.com)–Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Charles Tejada announced that he would not rule on a motion to set aside the convictions of the Central Park 5 until Feb. 6, 2003. It was an announcement that did not sit well with an attorney of the young men falsely convicted of a 1989 rape.
“Our position with the court from the beginning of this case has been to push for a speedy, clear and just resolution of this matter,” attorney Roger Wareham told reporters during a Nov. 14 press conference. “We have opposed every extension which the court has granted the prosecutor because we believe sufficient new evidence has been presented for a favorable decision to be rendered.”
The five young men–Kevin Richardson, Anton McCray, Raymond Santana, Yusuf Salaam and Kharey Wise–were found guilty of the near-fatal 1989 rape of a White woman jogger in Central Park. The case gained national attention, partly because the term “wilding” was used by prosecutors and the press to describe the rape and further tainted the young Black male image across the nation.
Four of the young men have served their time, while Mr. Santana, attorney Wareham’s client, remains behind bars. According to the attorney, the men must register as “sex offenders” every six months.
A hearing date had been set for Dec. 5, but Judge Tejada called defense attorneys and the Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to his office on Nov. 12 to announce that he was canceling the Dec. 5 court hearing.
The judge also ordered Mr. Morgenthau to respond by Dec. 5 to defense motions to set aside the convictions. The defense then would be required to respond to the district attorney’s papers by Jan. 6, the judge ordered. The judge will rule in the case on Feb. 6, 2003.
In January 2002, defense attorneys asked the courts to set aside the guilty verdicts because another man, Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving time in a New York State prison, confessed to the crime.
“It has been proven by scientific DNA evidence that Mr. Matias is the rapist,” Mr. Wareham said, adding that Judge Tejada’s decision was politically motivated. “This is a desperate attempt to cool out the growing outrage in the community.”
Supporters of the young men say they were beaten and illegally tortured into confessing to the 1989 crime. Calls to District Attorney Morgenthau were not returned.
None of the young men or their families were available for comment. Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem), who serves as a spokesman for the families, said the latest extension was the “perpetuation of the injustice and pain that the families and the community were enduring.”
Councilman Perkins also voiced concerns about the effect the delay would have on community support for the young men, which he said had gained “momentum” in recent months.