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National News

Sixth teen who pleaded guilty in Central Park jogger exonerated

todayJuly 25, 2022

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(NEW YORK) — The sixth teenager in the 1989 Central Park jogger case had his conviction overturned by a New York judge on Monday.

While the famous “Central Park 5” juveniles went to trial, a sixth teen, Steven Lopez, pleaded guilty to avoid the rape charge.

On Monday afternoon, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. moved to vacate Lopez’s guilty plea and dismiss the indictment.

“I’m sorry for the circumstances that led to this day,” Bragg said, calling this an “important moment” for the criminal justice system.

On the night of April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili was jogging in Central Park when she was raped, brutally beaten and left for dead. She survived and testified, but did not remember her assault.

Five teenagers — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — had high-profile trials after they were taken into custody, hounded in police interrogations and ultimately gave false confessions.

Salaam, Santana and McCray were convicted of rape, assault and robbery. Wise was found guilty of sexual abuse, assault and riot, and Richardson was convicted of attempted murder, rape, sodomy, robbery, assault and riot.

In 2002, convicted rapist Matias Reyes confessed to being Meili’s sole attacker, and Reyes’ DNA was matched to the crime scene. The five men’s convictions were overturned and they later received a settlement from the city.

Lopez’s case is not as well known. Lopez, who was 15 when arrested and interrogated, took a deal with prosecutors to avoid the rape charge and pleaded guilty to robbing a male jogger the same night as the rape, according to The New York Times.

“Many have largely forgotten there were six,” Bragg said at a news conference following the hearing. “Today, Mr. López joins the other five.”

Lopez declined to speak after his exoneration. His attorney, Eric Renfroe, said Lopez is looking for privacy.

“I’m just really happy for Mr. Lopez today,” Renfroe said. “I couldn’t imagine having gone through this and I think he’s tremendously strong for having endured it.”

Lopez served over three years and didn’t receive settlement money, the Times reported.

ABC News’ Susan Welsh, Keren Schiffman, Enjoli Francis and Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Written by: ABC News

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