The Central Park Five – now known as The Exonerated Five – were teenagers when they were wrongfully charged with the 1989 rape of a woman in New York City’s Central Park. However, as the nation has become familiar with the cases of Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam, one more co-defendant in that case has been exonerated: Steven Lopez.
Until Monday (July 25), Lopez’s story was largely ignored, but he was arrested alongside the other five teenagers in 1989, when he was just 15. By 1991, he took a deal with prosecutors to avoid pleading guilty to rape, and instead pleaded guilty to the robbery of a male jogger that night. He was released after serving nearly four years. According to The New York Times, Lopez reintroduced himself to the Manhattan district attorney’s office in February 2021, when he asked that his conviction be reviewed by its post-conviction justice unit.
The now-48-year-old’s indictment was dismissed on Monday at the New York Supreme Court by the chief administrative judge, Ellen N. Biben. It was the first exoneration under the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, who vowed to work on wrongful conviction cases.
“We talk about the Central Park Five, the Exonerated Five, but there were six people on that indictment,” Bragg said before the hearing.
The six teenagers – all of color – were eventually found innocent of the sexual assault of jogger Trisha Meili. Due to false confessions elicited by police, the teenagers were all convicted and served 45 years collectively. After the true attacker was identified in 2002, the courts overturned the rape convictions against Richardson, McCray, Santana, Wise and Salaam. Since then, The Exonerated Five won a $41 million settlement from New York City and became the highlights of documentaries, books and films, such as Ava DuVernay’s award-winning film When They See Us.
According to sources, Lopez’s story was overlooked, in part, because he pleaded guilty. His story isn’t depicted in any of the films, books, or documentaries about the Exonerated Five. He also has not received a settlement from the city. Hopefully now, he too, will get what is owed to him for the years taken away from his life.