Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg said this week that he has “no idea” what his stance is regarding the wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five and how New York City police bungled case.
“I’ve been away from it for so long, I just really can’t respond because I just don’t remember,” Bloomberg, who served as New York City’s mayor from 2002 to 2013, said at a campaign event in Alabama on Monday:
Bloomberg’s mayoral administration spent years and millions of dollars fighting a civil lawsuit filed by the Five that alleged racial discrimination, malicious prosecution and emotional distress. As mayor, he vigorously defended the actions of police and city officials in the case, arguing that they’d acted in good faith when they arrested and charged five Latino and Black teenagers for the 1989 rape and assault of a white woman in Central Park.
In 2002, the convictions were vacated after Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist, confessed to the crime and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt. By then, the five men — all of whom were 16 or younger at the time of their arrests — had already spent years behind bars.
On Monday, Bloomberg said there had been “an awful lot of evidence” at the time that the five teens were involved in the woman’s assault. The Five — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — said the police coerced them into making false confessions.
No physical evidence ever linked the teens to the crime.
“I really have no idea,” Bloomberg said when pressed about his current stance on the case. “I’ve read in the paper, I’ve been away from government for a long time. So apparently, the courts have ruled that they did not commit it, commit a crime, and that’s the final word and we just have to accept that. It isn’t a question of what anybody believes.”
“There was an awful lot of evidence presented at that time that they were involved,” Bloomberg later said when asked if his opinion of the case had changed. “There’s been questions since then about the quality of that evidence.”
The Five agreed to a settlement with New York City of about $40 million in 2014, less than a year after Bloomberg left office.
Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, vowed to do right by the Five.
“It’s long past time to heal these wounds,” De Blasio said in 2012. “As a city, we have a moral obligation to right this injustice.”