Update: As expected, Steven Lopez had his conviction on a charge related to the "Central Park 5" case overturned during a Monday hearing. Lopez didn't give a statement in court and left without speaking to reporters, the AP reports. “Mr. Lopez is looking for privacy at this time," said his lawyer, Eric Shapiro Renfroe. 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." Our original story from earlier Monday follows:
A forgotten co-defendant of the so-called "Central Park Five," whose convictions in a notorious 1989 rape were thrown out more than a decade later, is set to have his conviction on a related charge overturned. A hearing was scheduled for Monday afternoon in the case of Steven Lopez, who was arrested along with five other Black and Latino teenagers in the rape and assault on Trisha Meili. But he reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to the lesser charge of robbing a male jogger that same night and served more than three years, reports the AP.
Five teenagers were convicted in the attack on Meili—a 28-year-old white investment banker who was in a coma for 12 days after the attack—and served six to 13 years in prison. Their convictions were overturned in 2002 after evidence linked convicted serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes to the attack. The Central Park Five, now known as the "Exonerated Five," went on to win a $41 million settlement from the city and inspire books, movies, and television shows. But Lopez, now 48, has not received a settlement, and his case has been nearly forgotten in the years since he pleaded guilty to robbery in 1991 to avoid the more serious rape charge.
Indeed, the New York Times reports Lopez was "not featured" in Ken Burns' 2012 documentary on the case and was not represented by an actor in Ava DuVernay's 2019 take on the case. "We talk about the Central Park Five, the Exonerated Five, but there were six people on that indictment," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told the Times, which first reported news of the expected exoneration. "And the other five who were charged, their convictions were vacated. And it’s now time to have Mr. Lopez’s charge vacated." Lopez himself requested in February 2021 that his conviction be reviewed; the DA's office agreed to do so.
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