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Man Exonerated After Serving Three Years in 'Central Park Five' Case

A man who spent more than three years in prison in connection with the Central Park jogger case had his conviction vacated Monday, more than 30 years after the incident. Steven Lopez, who was arrested in 1989 when he was 15 years old, was the sixth of several teenagers who were charged and wrongfully convicted in connection with a string of attacks, the Wall Street Journal reports. The attacks included the rape of a female jogger in New York City’s Central Park in April 1989. The case aggravated racial tensions in the city, as the teenagers accused were Black and Latino. Lopez pleaded guilty to the robbery of a male jogger in a deal with prosecutors to avoid the more serious charge of rape, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Lopez formally requested his conviction be reviewed last year, according to court documents.


The men who became known as the “Central Park Five,” which didn’t include Lopez, settled their wrongful conviction lawsuit with New York City for $40 million in 2014. They served between 6¾ and 13 years in prison.

DNA tests confirmed Reyes sexually assaulted the jogger, according to court records. Their convictions were overturned in 2002, when Matias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist and murderer, told authorities he alone attacked the female jogger at the center of the case. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Monday that Lopez pleaded guilty amid false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and external pressure. He said hair sample comparisons used at the time of the incident were unreliable, and statements by other young men at the time linking Lopez to the crime have since been retracted. “A conviction based on an unconstitutional plea cannot stand,” Bragg said.

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