A sixth man, who was convicted along with five other Black and Hispanic teenagers for the 1989 rape of a jogger whose convictions were thrown out more than a decade later, also had his conviction on a related charge overturned Monday.
AP News reports Steven Lopez was exonerated in response to requests by both Lopez’s attorney and prosecutors at a court hearing in Manhattan.
Cops arrested 15-year-old Lopez along with five other Black and Latino teenagers in the rape and assault of 28-year-old jogger Trisha Meili. The teen previously reached a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to the lesser charge. He and several others were accused of mugging a male jogger on the same night. Lopez served more than three years behind bars before being released in the early 1990s.
Lopez, who is now 48, didn’t give a statement in court and left without speaking to reporters. His lawyer, Eric Shapiro Renfroe, said that his client was looking for privacy at this time.
Prosecutor Concluded Teens Confession Was Flawed
Trisha Meili was in a coma for 12 days after the attack which led to the conviction of Lopez and five other kids. Her assault happened on a night when several other people had been attacked in the park by groups of youths. The victims did not specifically identify the teens as their assailants.
Five teenagers convicted served six to 13 years in prison. Their convictions were thrown out in 2002 after evidence linked a convicted serial rapist and murderer, Matias Reyes, to the attack. Reyes confessed to investigators he alone had been responsible for Meili’s assault.
During the hearing, the defense attorney told his client:
“I believe what happened to you was a profound injustice and an American tragedy. … I’m happy to be here today with DA Bragg so we can give you your name back.”
Prosecutors in Lopez’s case concluded the teenagers’ confessions, made after hours of interrogations, were deeply flawed. Prosecutors said on Monday that statements implicating Lopez in the violence that night also were unreliable.
“A comparison of the statements reveals troubling discrepancies,” they wrote in court papers at the time. “The accounts given by the five defendants differed from one another on the specific details of virtually every major aspect of the crime.”
The five other teens who were linked to Lopez in the jogger attacks later recanted their allegations in their civil depositions. The Central Park Five, now sometimes known as the “Exonerated Five,” went on to win a $40 million settlement from the city. Their stories have since been depicted in books, television, and movies.
Lopez has not received a settlement.