Story highlights

The shocking 1989 crime galvanized New York City and contributed to the city's racial tensions

The Central Park 5 were eventually exonerated

Washington CNN  — 

A member of the “Central Park 5” who was wrongfully convicted in a horrific 1989 New York rape case blasted Donald Trump Friday after the GOP presidential nominee said he believes the group is still guilty.

“What more do we have to prove? I’m tired of proving our innocence! I don’t care what this a—— thinks @realDonaldTrump #centralpark5,” Raymond Santana Jr. tweeted.

The 1989 crime – in which a 28-year-old banker who had been jogging at night in Central Park was raped, bludgeoned with a rock and was found hours later, tied up, stripped and suffering from hypothermia and brain damage – shook the city and exacerbated racial tensions.

Trump involved himself in the controversy soon after it took place when he took out full-page ads in major newspapers calling, among other things, for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York.

There were no witnesses to the attack. The victim had no memory of it, and DNA evidence was in its infancy and was not presented at the trial. The five youths were convicted almost exclusively on their confessions, which they testified were coerced by detectives.

In 2002, another man, a convicted rapist and murderer, confessed to the assault, and his DNA did match semen that was found on the victim. No DNA evidence has been found to tie any of the Central Park 5 to the crime.

The Central Park 5 were exonerated, and in 2014, New York paid them a $41 million settlement.

Trump, however, still is not buying their innocence.

“They admitted they were guilty,” Trump said this week in a statement to CNN’s Miguel Marquez. “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

Trump obviously still believes that the Central Park 5 are guilty, so it cannot be said he is lying or even misleading. But he is undoubtedly holding steadfast to an opinion in the face of DNA evidence to the contrary and the fact that the Central Park 5 have been exonerated by the legal system.

Ken Burns, who co-directed a 2012 documentary on the case, tweeted Friday: “Apparently Mr. Trump is unfamiliar with the concept of wrongful conviction.”

‘Bring Back Our Police!’

A group of five teenage boys who were in the park at the time and who may have been involved in committing other crimes were arrested for the assault. After extended questioning over two days – during which the suspects claim they were deprived of sleep and food – police say they confessed to the crime. None acknowledged actually raping the victim, instead pointing fingers at the others.

The viciousness of the crime, which came in the midst of New York’s crack epidemic and a spiraling crime rate, coupled with the fact that the victim was white and four of the suspects were black and one was Latino, added to the city’s racial tensions.

Two weeks after the attack, Trump took out full-page ads in four of the city’s newspapers with the blaring headline, “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

Trump did not specifically call for the youths charged in the jogger attack to be executed. But he was clear that people like them should face severe punishment for such crimes.

“I want to hate these muggers and murderers,” he wrote. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”