NEW YORK — With New York awash in murder and drugs, the 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger by what was said to be a gang of “wilding” teens was seen as evidence of a city sliding into lawlessness. A quarter-century later, it stands instead as a $40 million symbol of failure by the justice system.
The city has agreed to a settlement for that amount with the five men who were falsely convicted in the attack, all but closing the books on one of the most lurid cases in New York history.
Official confirmation of the deal came Friday when City Comptroller Scott Stringer said his office had received settlement papers with a figure “in the ballpark” of the $40 million that had been widely reported in the media.
The settlement still needs final approval from the comptroller and a federal judge. Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined to comment.
The five black and Hispanic defendants were found guilty as teenagers in 1990 in the attack on a white woman — an investment banker — who had gone for a run in the park.
They served six to 13 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out in 2002 because of evidence that someone else, acting alone, committed the crime. The five sued police and prosecutors for $250 million.
Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement that the tentative settlement signifies “a monumental victory” for the men and their families.
“It is also a victory for those in the community that stood with them from day one and believed in their innocence in this case,” Sharpton said. “As supporters, we were viciously attacked for standing with them, but we were on the right side of history.”
At the time, the crime was seen as a terrifying symbol of the city’s rampant lawlessness and its racial and class divide, and it gave rise to the term “wilding” for urban mayhem by marauding teenagers.