Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix series, When They See Us, is being billed as an important exposé of the American criminal-justice system’s racist underbelly. As a review in the Daily Beast explains, it is the “riveting” story of how that system coerced and intimidated five innocent “teenage boys of color” into confessing to the highly publicized “rape and vicious assault of Trisha Meili, a white investment banker,” in New York’s Central Park on April 19, 1989. We are told that the boys — Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana — tragically had “their youth snatched from them” by the false convictions and the subsequent prison sentences that they served. In a similar vein, a review in The Root lauds DuVernay for her success in “humanizing” these same “innocent young black and brown” victims of institutionalized “abuse, mistreatment and manipulation.” David Ewoldsen, a professor of media and information at Michigan State University, says that When They See Us “is about one of the great injustices in modern American history” against “five teenagers of color.” And a New York Times headline depicts DuVernay’s series as “The True Story of How a City in Fear Brutalized the Central Park Five.”
It’s a story we’ve all heard many times before. And it is a damnable, disgusting lie.
Sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 on the night of April 19, 1989, a group of more than 30 black and Hispanic teenagers — including the aforementioned “Central Park Five” — attacked 28-year-old Trisha Meili while she was jogging in the park. One of the assailants — whose identity would remain unknown for the next 13 years — raped her with vaginal penetration, leaving his DNA inside the woman’s cervix. As Miss Meili screamed in agony, one or more of her attackers shut her up by fracturing her skull with a lead pipe and mutilating her face with a brick. Meili lost three-quarters of her blood in the assault, and her brain activity could scarcely be detected by medical equipment in the hospital emergency room to which she was later transported. So badly was Meili’s face mangled — one of her eyes had popped out of its socket — that even her boyfriend was able to recognize her only by a familiar ring on her finger. The District Attorney’s office initially assigned Miss Meili’s case to its homicide unit, because none of her doctors expected that the woman would survive for even a single night. Yet Meili did survive, though she spent nearly two weeks in a coma.
During the half-hour just prior to their attack on Miss Meili, the Central Park Five and their two-dozen-plus comrades participated in multiple random beatings of other passersby in the park. For example:
- Shortly after 9 p.m., they punched and kicked an elderly Hispanic man into unconsciousness before stealing his sandwich and pouring beer over him.
- A few minutes later, they shouted “Whitey” and “Fucking white people” while attempting to assault a white couple who were riding a tandem bicycle.
- Three minutes after that, they beat a 52-year-old male pedestrian.
- Within another five minutes, they threw rocks and sticks at a 33-year-old white man named David Good, who managed to flee the scene.
- Five minutes later, they struck a 30-year-old white banker named David Lewis, who likewise was able to flee.
- And a few minutes after that, they beat a 40-year-old white schoolteacher named John Loughlin into unconsciousness.
Then they turned their attention to Trisha Meili.
Prior to April 19, 1989, the members of the Central Park Five had already burnished their credentials as demons in their respective neighborhoods. Kharey Wise, who supplied the metal pipe that was used to bludgeon Miss Meili, was a crack cocaine user and a gang member who routinely terrorized the tenants of a local housing complex. Antron McCray was well known for his menacing behavior and violent attacks directed against teachers at his school. And Yusef Salaam, who was allegedly the first to pummel Miss Meili’s head with Kharey Wise’s lead pipe, was fond of robbing people in Central Park. Having been recently suspended from school for weapons possession, Salaam was described by police as the “most vicious” of the five.
When the Central Park Five stood trial the following year for the attack on Trisha Meili, local black newspapers were quick to denounce the court proceedings as a series of racist charades. Harlem pastor Calvin Butts, for his part, complained that “the first thing you do in the United States of America when a white woman is raped, is round up a bunch of black youths.” When the victim, still disfigured and unsteady, went to the courthouse to testify, groups of black demonstrators — led by Al Sharpton — taunted her, calling her a “white slut” and a “filthy white whore,” and claiming that her boyfriend was the real rapist.
Convicted unanimously by racially diverse juries, all five of the defendants went on to serve prison terms ranging from 5 to 12 years for their respective roles in the attack on Miss Meili. The convictions were based primarily on the confessions that the suspects themselves had made when questioned by detectives.
The Central Park Five’s attorneys — as well as Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix series — have tried to portray the five teens as frightened little lambs who were intimidated and coerced by law-enforcement authorities into making false confessions. But in the precinct house after their apprehension, the suspects were loudly singing the rap song “Wild Thing” for an extended period of time while they laughed uproariously about what they had just done to Trisha Meili. When a police officer suggested to Raymond Santana that he should have been out with a girlfriend rather than attacking strangers in Central Park, the boy laughed and replied, “I already got mines.” These are not the words and actions of people trembling in fear.
The coercion theory is further discredited by the fact that the interrogations of McCray, Richardson, and Santana were videotaped and, in compliance with legal requirements for cases involving minors, were conducted in the presence of a parent or guardian. Wise, meanwhile, was already 16 at the time, thus he was unaccompanied by an adult during his videotaped interrogation. Salaam was 15 but had a fake ID listing his age as 16, so his questioning began without a parent or guardian present. But before long, his mother arrived at the precinct and requested that her son be provided with a lawyer; Salaam’s confession was not videotaped.
The video footage of McCray, Richardson, Santana, and Wise was damning indeed. Some excerpts:
Antron McCray: “We charged her. We got her on the ground. Everybody started hitting her and stuff. She was on the ground. Everybody stomping and everything. Then we got, each — I grabbed one arm, some other kid grabbed one arm, and we grabbed her legs and stuff. Then we all took turns getting on her, getting on top of her.”
Kevin Richardson: “Raymond [Santana] had her arms, and Steve [Lopez, who accepted a plea bargain rather than face trial] had her legs. He spread it out. And Antron [McCray] got on top, took her panties off.”
Raymond Santana: “He was smacking her. He was saying, ‘Shut up, bitch!’ Just smacking her…. I was grabbing the lady’s tits.”
Kharey Wise: “This was my first rape.”
When investigators at one point asked the fifth suspect, Yusef Salaam, why he had tried to smash the victim’s skull, he replied, “It was fun.”
- While being driven to the police precinct shortly after his apprehension, Raymond Santana blurted out: “I had nothing to do with the rape. All I did was feel the woman’s tits.”
- Yusef Salaam told a detective who interviewed him: “I was there, but I didn’t rape her.”
- Kevin Richardson — whose underwear was stained with semen, grass, and dirt – told an acquaintance shortly after the attack: “We just raped somebody.”
- On April 20th, both Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana independently brought investigators to the precise location where the previous night’s attack had occurred. Richardson, for his part, told the detective: “This is where we got her … where the raping occurred.”
- In the company of his father, Richardson told investigators that the source of several scratches on his neck had been the fingernails of a desperate Trisha Meili.
- When Kharey Wise on April 20th went with a detective and an Assistant District Attorney to the scene of the previous night’s attack, he said: “Damn, damn that’s a lot of blood. Damn, this is really bad, that’s a lot of blood…. I knew she was bleeding, but I didn’t know how bad she was. It was really dark. I couldn’t see how much blood there was at night.”
- Wise also told a detective that someone named “Rudy” had fondled the jogger’s breasts and stolen her Walkman. His knowledge about the existence of the Walkman was highly significant, for at that time, not even the police were yet aware that the jogger had been carrying such a device.
- Two of Wise’s friends testified that the day after the attack on Miss Meili, Wise had told them: “You heard about that woman that was beat up and raped in the park last night? That was us!”
- One of the numerous young people who were arrested for their participation in the various Central Park attacks of April 19th stated, on videotape, that he had heard Raymond Santana and another boy laughing about “how they ‘made a woman bleed.’”
In short, there wasn’t merely a mountain of evidence indicating that the Central Park Five had participated in the brutalization of Miss Meili. There was an Everest of evidence.
Defenders of the Five point out that the DNA of the semen inside the jogger’s cervix did not match that of McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise, or Salaam — supposedly proving the boys’ innocence. But in fact, it proves only that none of those five had actually penetrated the victim’s vagina. It does not negate the fact that all five provided vivid testimony proving beyond any doubt that they were part of the vicious horde that had committed one of the most brutal, barbaric attacks in living memory. Nor does it alter the fact that their mere presence in that horde made them legally complicit in Miss Meili’s rape. The fact that their semen was not inside the victim’s body is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Authorities always knew that there were other assailants, besides the Five, who had brutalized the victim and gotten away.
Defenders of the Central Park Five likewise point out that no traces of DNA from the boys’ hair, sweat, saliva, or skin had been found on the victim either. But as Ann Coulter wrote in 2018: “Today, these kids’ DNA would have been found all over the crime scene. But in 1989, DNA was a primitive science. Most cops wouldn’t have even bothered collecting samples for DNA tests back then.” Indeed, the development of a national DNA database enabling investigators to identify perpetrators by matching their genetic materials to those collected from other crime scenes, would not even begin until several years later.
In 2002, a convicted serial rapist named Matias Reyes — who was already serving a 33-years-to-life sentence for other felonies but had never been investigated as a suspect in the Central Park jogger case — suddenly confessed to having perpetrated Trisha Meili’s April 19, 1989 rape. Authorities quickly confirmed his claim by matching his DNA with the DNA from the semen which had been collected during the original investigation thirteen years earlier. Reyes’s confession had no bearing on the prison time that he was already serving, as the statute of limitations regarding the Trisha Meili case had expired.
Reyes was a violent psychopath with a long history of forcing his way into women’s apartments and attacking them. In one of those cases, he had raped a then-pregnant woman named Lourdes Gonzalez before stabbing her nine times while her young children were in the next room, listening to their mother suffer and die. And yet now, not only was Reyes confessing to a crime for which he had never even been charged, but he was claiming (falsely) to have acted alone in attacking Trisha Meili in Central Park. Why?
Reyes said he felt guilty that five innocent men had been punished for a crime that he committed. But those punishments were basically over by the time Reyes made his confession. Four members of the Central Park Five were already out of prison, and the fifth, Kharey Wise, was scheduled to be released very soon. It is simply not believable that a lifelong remorseless monster like Matias Reyes would suddenly have been motivated by a pang of guilt. A much more plausible explanation rests with the well-substantiated fact that Reyes, who had recently been moved to Kharey Wise’s prison cellblock, feared Wise’s gang and desperately wanted to be transferred to a more secure and hospitable prison location. And sure enough, after he confessed to the rape of Miss Meili, he quickly received the transfer that he wanted.
Reyes’s confession prompted New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to vacate the convictions against the Central Park Five. This, in turn, set the stage for the Five to bring a $250 million lawsuit against the City of New York in 2003, for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. For the next eleven years, city attorneys refused to settle the suit and repeatedly vowed that they would fight it out in court.
But when Bill de Blasio took over as Mayor of New York in 2014, his administration quickly reached a $41 million settlement with the plaintiffs. This decision to settle the case was a reflection of de Blasio’s deep-seated belief that the American criminal-justice system is infested with racism, and, by logical extension, that the Central Park Five were among its many unfortunate victims. De Blasio articulated this theme with utmost clarity later that same year:
“[O]ur history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter…. [W]e’re not just dealing with a problem in 2014…. We are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. That is how profound the crisis is…. We have to have an honest conversation in this country about a history of racism, we have to have an honest conversation about the problems that have caused parents to feel that their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police…. This is something systemic and we bluntly have to talk about the historical racial dynamics underlying [it].”
Eric Reynolds, a black NYPD officer who first arrested a number of the suspects in the Central Park jogger case in April 1989, was disgusted by the de Blasio administration’s deal with Miss Meili’s five assailants. “If we had gone to trial in their lawsuit … all the facts would have come out,” said Reynolds. “It would have been clear they [the Central Park Five] participated, and [Matias] Reyes didn’t act alone. The evidence supported it. They did not want to go to trial. They just wanted to get paid.”
Significantly, Reynolds notes that he himself had never been named as a defendant in the Central Park Five’s lawsuit against New York City — most likely, he believes, because including a black officer as a target of such a suit would have contradicted the narrative of a white racist system abusing minority youngsters.
As for allegations that the suspects’ confessions had been coerced by police, Reynolds says: “[Trisha Meili] was in a coma. If we’re railroading [the suspects], how do we know when she comes out of the coma what story she’s going to tell? If you are trying to pin it on someone, why would you risk that she would say something different?” Mike Sheehan, one of the detectives who investigated the attack against Miss Meili, concurs: “All of this stuff about coercion really pisses me off. Do you honestly think that we — detectives with more than 20 years in, family men with pensions — would risk all of that so we could put words in the mouth of a 15 year-old kid? Absolutely not.”
Aside from portraying the American criminal-justice system — and American society generally — as perpetual breeding grounds for white racism, Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us has yet one more noteworthy objective: to depict Donald Trump as a reprehensible racist who, like the country at large, was intent on satisfying his own personal hunger for a proverbial pound of black and brown flesh. At the time of the Central Park jogger attack, Trump, then in his early forties, spent $85,000 to purchase full-page ads in four of New York’s daily newspapers, wherein he:
- characterized the type of violent criminals who were turning New York City into a veritable killing field, as “crazed misfits”;
- urged New York State to “bring back the death penalty”;
- lamented that New York’s “white, black, Hispanic and Asian” families were now unable to enjoy evening walks in Central Park”;
- and said, “I no longer want to understand [violent criminals’] anger. I want them to understand our anger…. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”
To normal people, those sentiments very ably convey a moral sense of justice and a concern for the well-being of all law-abiding citizens, whatever their color. But Ava DuVernay’s racist propaganda film targeting whites, characterizes them as “disgusting” expressions of anti-black racism. DuVernay’s interpretation of Trump’s words, along with her whitewashing of the Central Park Five’s horrific crimes, demonstrate just how morally sick the modern Left has become.