Jumaane D. Williams joined by others demanding accountability in Central Park 5 Prosecution.
Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams was joined by a coalition of elected officials and activists today to call for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., to investigate former assistant district attorney Linda Fairstein’s alleged misconduct during the so-called Central Park Five case. The case is drawing new attention following the release of the miniseries “When They See Us,” which documents the stories of the young men wrongfully convicted in the rape of Trisha Meili in 1989.
During a press conference outside the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building and in a letter sent to Vance, Williams asked that the district attorney investigate all past cases overseen by Fairstein to determine whether there are additional victims of her alleged misconduct. He further called for Elizabeth Lederer, also involved in the prosecution, to be removed from her current position with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Williams called for Fairstein to be disbarred and removed from her role as an adjunct Professor at Columbia University, and for Penguin to stop selling her book. Together with the other advocates for justice, he linked the injustice against the five young men in 1989 –who were all later exonerated– to the ongoing trial a few hundred yards away at 1 Police Plaza, where Officer Daniel Pantaleo faced a departmental disciplinary trial five years after the death of Eric Garner, from a chokehold.
The five young men were: Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise. At the time of the attack and the arrests of the young man, Donald Trump purchased full-page ads in New York’s major newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty so the boys could be executed. Up to this date, the man continues to slander the five by insisting that they are guilty.
Williams’ letter to Vance in part reads, “This is a new opportunity to seek justice, which is why I write you today. Those involved in the prosecution of the ‘Central Park Five’ must be held accountable for the wrongdoing they committed while working on the case. It is even more clear today than it was before that former District Attorney Linda Fairstein, prosecutor in the case, engaged in immoral, unethical, and illegal conduct. She took advantage of vulnerable, young, Black and Latino youth by orchestrating false confessions from the teenagers. Fairstein’s actions were not only unjust, but possibly criminal, which many believe could be reason for disbarment.
Williams added, “Lederer’s involvement in the case cannot be ignored, and she too must be held accountable for her actions. She should be removed from her position immediately.”
He concluded, “We cannot bring back what was taken from these five young men. We also can not bring back Trisha Meili, or the other victims of the man who went free while these boys were incarcerated. We were not the people in power back then, but we have the power now. I implore you to exercise the authority you now possess to help right the wrongs of the past, to bend the arc toward justice.”