The Central Park Five: Revisiting A Travesty

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last night as I contemplated what to write about this week, I pondered momentarily keying on Rick Perry, prospective Energy Secretary. The irony here is stunning. On November 9, 2011, under the glare of the bright lights of the 2012 GOP Candidate’s Presidential Debate stage in Rochester, MI, Governor Perry had an “Oops” moment, which he later described as, well, embarrassing.

The Texas Governor had spent a good deal of his campaign revving up the rhetoric regarding his intent to dismantle the Commerce, Education, and Energy Departments. Suffice it to say it came as more than a bit of a shock when he found himself immersed in an epic memory fail. It went a little something like this:

“It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone – Commerce, Education and the um, what’s the third one there? Let’s see. Oh five – Commerce, Education and the um, um.”

Mitt Romney, standing two podiums to Perry’s right, offered the Environmental Protection Agency as a suggestion.

“EPA, there you go,” Perry said.

But then, the Texas governor quickly retracted his statement, saying the EPA doesn’t need to be eliminated but simply rebuilt.

Again, he tried to name the third mystery agency.

“But you can’t name the third one?” CNBC moderator John Harwood asked.

“The third agency of government I would do away with – the education, the uh, the commerce and let’s see. I can’t the third one. I can’t. Sorry Oops.”

The third agency Perry couldn’t think of was the Department of Energy, which he had railed against on the stump nearly every day.

Perry finally remembered the third agency 15 minutes later after referring to his notes, saying, “By the way, it was the Department of Energy I was talking about.”

Afterward, he tried to make the best of a very bad situation.

“Speaking of boots, I’m glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it out there. I stepped in it.  Man, yeah it was embarrassing.  Of course it was.

From time to time, you may forget about an agency that you are gonna zero out. Everybody tomorrow will understand the Energy Department is one of those that needs to be done away with.”

About 10 weeks later, January 19th, Perry officially withdrew from the campaign. The reality of the situation is, he was done November 9th. He never recovered.

Fast-forward to the 2012 GOP Primary season and the former Governor was back on the trail. This time faced with the (apparently) irresistible force that is Donald Trump, Perry would refer to Mr. Trump as:

“A cancer on conservatism” and “a barking carnival act.”

In response, Trump said of Perry:

“Perry did an absolutely horrible job of securing the border. He should be ashamed of himself.”

So now, in a double dose of irony, Mr. Trump and Governor Perry appear ready to kiss and make up. In what, at least for the purpose of this summary, I will declare a win-win-win scenario. Perry gets a job, Trump gets the last laugh, and we…we get to watch it all unfold. Enough already about Governor Perry.

Last night, as I was considering the topic du jour, I came across a PBS Special written and produced by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, & David McMahon, examining the 1989 Central Park 5 case. I have already written about this horrendous historical hazing, but I could not stop watching. Nine weeks ago, on October 12, I penned a post entitled, “Deny, Decry, Defend, Deflect, Divert, Dissemble, and Dismiss: The Trump Mantra!” The case was the focus of the piece. I believe it captured the essence what happened, and of course, it pointed out Donald Trump’s role in it.

Today, I’m just going to play it again. The story included 10 examples of what I consider classic Trumpisms. For this post, the last bullet is an appropriate lead-in:

  • Ran an ad calling for the State to kill five schoolchildren

The list above is not intended to reflect a Top 10 of Mr. Trump’s offensive deeds or actions. In fact, it is an acutely abridged version of what some might refer to as his parade of despicable antics. I am going to briefly elevate the last of the preceding bullets notated. That bullet summarizes the Central Park jogger case, which was a 1989 case familiarly known as the Central Park 5.

A woman was attacked while jogging in New York City‘s Central Park, on April 19, 1989. The encounter consisted of violent assault, rape, and sodomy. The 28-year-old victim remained in a coma for 12 days. The New York Times characterized the assault as one of the most widely publicized crimes of the 1980’s.

When the story broke, it was detailed by police and prosecutors as a band of young people, part of a larger gang, rampaging Central Park, and mercilessly beating and assaulting the jogger. The story exploded upon the public sphere, having been fanned by both politicians and sensationalized media accounts.

Five black and Hispanic young men, ages 14 to 16 were arrested, and subsequently convicted. Despite the fact all of them asserted that the incriminating statements they gave had been coerced by authorities, their statements were ruled admissible, and led to convictions in 1990.

In 2002, the Manhattan District Attorney (DA) found DNA and other evidence that the woman had not been beaten and raped by the five teens. Instead, another man, a convicted rapist and murderer who had confessed to acting alone in the attack, was the perpetrator. The DA concluded that the new evidence, if available, could have resulted in a different verdict during the trial. He joined a defense motion asking that the convictions be vacated.

In 2014, the five men agreed to a $41 million settlement from New York City to resolve a civil rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment. The settlement averaged about $1 million for each year the men were imprisoned. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio deemed it a “moral obligation to right this injustice.” The suit alleged false arrest, malicious prosecution, and a racially motivated conspiracy to deprive them of their civil tights by the city’s police and prosecutors. It is worth noting, the previous Mayor, Michael Bloomberg vigorously denied and fought against the suit in federal court for more than a decade.

Let’s rewind. On May 1, 1989, Mr. Trump published an ad in the New York Daily News calling for the State to kill the five teenagers who had been arrested, convicted, and as we now know, confessed to the crimes under police coercion. Though convicted, they were not guilty, a fact later proved by DNA and other evidence.

In retrospect, it is clear the possibility that the Central Park 5 might be innocent never occurred to Donald Trump. Apparently, it still hasn’t. He emblazoned his opinion in a New York Daily News ad with a clarion call to anger and fear: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!”

Years later when the city offered to settle the case, Mr. Trump again took to the New York Daily News with an op-ed full of disgust. He insisted it was “ridiculous” that the city offered a settlement, and that “settling doesn’t mean innocence.” This was, and still is his position, even after the men were exonerated, and moreover, after DNA evidence established without a doubt that someone else (who also confessed) was the culprit.

Just last week Trump told CNN in a statement “they admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

This choice to embrace some facts, while opting to ignore others, such as the new DNA evidence and corresponding subsequent confession, are emblematic of what I have come to characterize as the Trump Way…his hardwired philosophy, if you will. This is an artful design with seven key principles. He has already written The Art of the Deal (1987), and The Art of the Comeback (1997). Perhaps his next tome should be entitled, The Art of “Deny, Decry, Defend, Deflect, Divert, Dissemble, and Dismiss: The Trump Mantra!” At least, that what it was called a couple of months ago. Today, it’s, “The Central Park Five: Revisiting A Travesty!”

I’m done; holla back!

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1 thought on “The Central Park Five: Revisiting A Travesty

  1. From Slate:

    “You Played Yourself, Democrats. Again.”

    How fitting for the 2016 election to end with the dashed hopes and incompetence of liberals.

    By Jim Newell

    Few people in the galaxy aren’t in need of a nice, long holiday after the deaths, the elections, and the deaths by election that have characterized 2016. These past 12 months have been taxing. The group that really needs to be put on mandatory vacation—starting now, and through New Year’s weekend, with no obligations other than daily meditation—is what remains of the Democratic Party. Democrats need to close the books on 2016 without somehow losing a thumb in the process. Monday’s Electoral College oopsie-daisy was the last straw, and mandatory restraint from further calendar-year Democratic beclownment is duly ordered.
    This was the Year of Democratic Self-Owns. You know the pattern. It is marked by some hoped-for development that in theory would crush Republicans but, at the moment of action, embarrasses Democrats in ways that should have been foreseeable. Obviously we are speaking here of Democrats’ hope that the Republican Party would nominate Donald J. Trump for president. The Republican Party did its part and gave the Democrats a nominee who could not win. In response, the Democrats nominated one of their own. The stoppable force met the movable object and won on an electoral coin flip. In a few weeks, Donald J. Trump, the name-leasing tradesman popularized on television’s The Celebrity Apprentice, will preside over a unified Republican federal government working in close coordination with state-level unified Republican governments to remake the country in their image.
    Think of all the misplaced confidences along the way.
    Let’s go all the way back to late 2014 and the then-popular theory that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would retain Barack Obama’s “rising American electorate” coalition of unmarried women, minorities, and young people while performing leaps and bounds better than Obama among the white working class. Clinton allies were talking about putting Indiana, Missouri, and Arkansas in play. The members of the white working class had other ideas, and they cost Clinton the election.
    Then there was the idea that the fractious Republican primary and the repugnant, visibly unstable nominee it produced would make masses of moderate Republicans ripe for the plucking. The plan worked great in Orange County, California, which doesn’t matter. The larger problem was the dissatisfaction of certain Democratic voters with their own nominee in places that matter, such as Wisconsin and Michigan.
    Donald Trump, the thinking went, would be screwed because he didn’t have enough money to blanket the airwaves with ads. Television ads don’t matter much on the presidential level, though, and Clinton both wasted time and reinforced her out-of-touch image by grubbing for money all the time.
    And if all else failed, “the model” would be there to solve everything. There was no earthly way the model would fail to detect election-deciding problems on the ground, right?
    Everything Democrats put their confidence in this year didn’t just peter out. It turned around and kicked its masters in the ass.
    This track record made it hard not to laugh at the result of Monday’s experiment with “faithless electors.” There were greater than zero liberals who put their hope in an Electoral College coup on Monday, which meant there were greater than zero people who were egregiously misled into building expectations.
    There were a record number of faithless electors in Monday’s tally: seven, besting the 208-year-old record of six. But five of them were Clinton defectors, compared with only two Trump defectors in Texas. Not all of these Clinton defectors would have gone that way had the election depended on them, and with the gap as large as it was, a few protest votes were there for the spending. But it was still a humiliation sharing vital characteristics with previous 2016 humiliations. Like the 2016 election, an effort to exploit Republican unease with Trump overestimated Republican unease and underestimated Democratic division. False confidence led to ignorance of everything else.
    Liberals are concussed and need to be carted off until the new Congress begins. Everyone will have plenty of work to do in the new year in terms of normal politics: trying to block ideological right-wing legislation, making use of confirmation hearings, and drawing up a two-to-four-year plan for capturing more state legislative chambers and governors’ mansions. These would be “good” investments of time and mental energy.
    Immediately trying to impeach Donald Trump, on the other hand, would be a “bad” investment of time and mental energy. It is not going to happen. Not one person in this country should build up the expectation that this is something that will happen when Congress returns. Maybe discussing it delegitimizes him; more likely it’s a waste of time. Liberals’ track record in 2016 tells me that if they were to engage with the possibility of impeaching Trump, anyway, Democratic members would somehow find themselves all voting for their own expulsion from Congress, in the unlikely event that they didn’t all simultaneously slip on banana peels while walking to the chamber for the vote.
    No more hijinks until Jan. 3, everyone. Enjoy the holidays. Go to the movies—for fun, not as research for political thinkpieces on Medium.


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