De Blasio Defends Central Park Five Settlement As 'Moral Obligation'

FILE - This 1990 file photo provided by Sundance Selects shows accused rapist Yusef Salaam, second right, being escorted by p
FILE - This 1990 file photo provided by Sundance Selects shows accused rapist Yusef Salaam, second right, being escorted by police in New York in 1990. Salaam is the subject of the documentary, "The Central Park Five," about the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. A city official said Friday, June 20, 2014 that New York City has agreed to a $40 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit filed against police and prosecutors by Salaam and four co-defendants exonerated in the notorious case of a jogger attacked in Central Park in 1989. (AP Photo/Sundance Selects, NY Daily News, File)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio upheld his decision to settle the "Central Park Five" lawsuit against the city for close to $40 million, calling it a means to bring justice to five men wrongfully convicted of brutally raping a female jogger in 1989.

"An injustice was done and we have a moral obligation to respond to that injustice," de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference Monday. "I think that the way we've proceeded was [with] an understanding that that had to be rectified, in a way that made sense and a way that was mindful and careful, but I think we're on the right track.

"And I think the moral issue is quite clear and obviously was made clear by the court decisions in recent years," he added.

In 2002, DNA evidence and a confession by convicted rapist Matias Reyes cleared the men and their convictions were formally vacated. The Central Park Five, who had been convicted as juveniles, had served up to 13 years in jail.

While campaigning for office, de Blasio vowed to reach a "swift settlement" of the lawsuit, which was filed by the wrongfully convicted men more than 11 years ago.

The suit accused the city of false arrest and racially motivated prosecution against the five, who are black or Latino. At trial as teens, they had argued their confessions had been coerced during exhausting interrogations by investigators who did not allow their parents to be present.

De Blasio's predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had argued police had not committed any wrongdoing and fought the lawsuit for nearly a decade.

Following news of the settlement on Thursday, one of the exonerated men, Kharey Wise, expressed his gratitude towards the mayor for finally settling the lawsuit.

“I feel good,” Wise said, according to the New York Daily News. “Things are good.”

The Wall Street Journal reports the mayor would not comment on specifics of the settlement, citing its open status. In an op-ed published by the Daily News on Saturday, New Yorker Donald Trump called the settlement "a disgrace," arguing it was "politics at its lowest and worst form."