“It would be great to have that support”, Santana told the moviegoers at a recent Q & A session after the screening of The Central Park Five in Harlem. “But we understand something very traumatic happened to her. And we understand she’s a victim just as we are and the families are. We also look at the situation and this is a woman who has been victimized. During her recovery process she became friendly with the DA’s office and some of the detectives. So what happened is for thirteen to fifteen years they have been telling her that we were guilty. So now to tell her that we’re not (guilty) that’s very traumatic and we sympathize with that. Even if she doesn’t want to meet with us and talk with us we understand. At the end of the day we we’re all victims in this case.”
Santana’s comments were in regard to Trisha Meili, a woman who captured this nation’s attention close to twenty-five years ago as “The Central Park Jogger”. Now she finds herself as one of the subjects of a controversial documentary which is gaining major buzz during current awards season.
The Central Park Five chronicles the lives of the five then teenagers who were arrested and wrongfully convicted in the Central Park Jogger case of 1989 for viciously beating and gang raping Meili. The film is directed by legendary documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (Baseball and Jazz) along with Sara Burns and David McMahon. Just like the infamous case, the film has managed to generate a ton of controversy. In fact, Ken Burns has gone on to compare the ordeal the five men were involved in to the Scottsboro Boys case of 1931. In that case nine teenage African American boys were accused raping two white women after a mêlée on a freight train which was stopped in Paint Rock, Alabama. This incident is said to have been sparked by the boys whistling at alleged victims Ruby Bates and Victoria Price. It also opened the floodgates with regard to landmark cases involving the accused.
According to multiple news sources the film and the production company have been subpoenaed by the City of New York in order to gain access to the original footage. When questioned about this David McMahon told a packed house, “We believe we’re protected by reporters’ privilege laws. We have a lawyer representing us and we have served them with motion to quash the subpoena. Which is basically us saying we’re not going to turnover anything and a judge will have to do this.”
The legal wrangling involving the five men and the film should come to no one’s surprise. Prior to the issue regarding the subpoena Santana, Salaam, Richardson, Wise and Antron McCray filed suit against the City of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress. To this day the suit has yet to be settled. However, Santana revealed to the crowded theater patrons that the five men do have an upcoming court date on December 17th in lower Manhattan.
For the past ten years since their convictions were vacated after Matias Reyes DNA and confessions linked him to the savage attack on Meili, those who arrested these men and prosecuted them insist they’re guilty. At the forefront of this have been former prosecutor turned novelist Linda Fairstein and former Manhattan North detective Mike Sheehan who for close to twenty years has been working as a television reporter; currently with PIX 11 in New York. He has never been bashful while broached on air about the subject of this case and has never offered a kind word about the five men. “Privately they all know that we’re innocent”, Salaam told me exclusively about this matter. “Publicly they have to maintain that same blue wall. When I think of all of the stuff that went on, they all knew. They were just trying to make sure they could solve this case as quick as possible. It was just such a sensational story to have five people do in then for them to say you know what this is just not adding up. Everybody’s telling different stories and I don’t know what’s going on. But they failed to do that.”