• Weird History

The History of Donald Trump and The Central Park Five

People living in America are well aware of the various controversies surrounding Donald J. Trump, the former President of the United States - but the people of New York City have been at the forefront of the infamous conflict between Trump and the Central Park Five. The Five were a group of minority youths who were accused of a horrific attack on a female jogger, Trisha Meili. On April 19, 1989, Meili, a 28-year-old investment banker, was jogging through Central Park around 9:00 pm when she was attacked. The attack put Meili in a coma for 12 days and left her with severe brain damage, though she was able to mostly overcome this after years of rehabilitation.

The brazen assault on an innocent woman in the middle of Central Park greatly shocked the people of New York, and the incident became one of the most heavily covered crime stories of the 1980s. Of course, the fact that Donald Trump was one of those shocked New Yorkers had a lot to do with that extensive coverage. The appearance of a Trump Central Park Five ad calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in several local newspapers only served to further inflame the controversy. What was originally a single, terrible assault quickly spiraled into a racially tinged debate and a highly questionable police investigation.

In the end, the Central Park Five were each convicted and sentenced to a number of years in prison, and it would be more than a decade before the real attacker, Matias Reyes, confessed and was confirmed with DNA evidence.

  • The Same Day As The Central Park Incident, A Black Woman Was Attacked In New York, But It Went Largely Uncovered

    The racist motivations behind the media push to convict the Central Park Five are evidenced by another attack that occurred on the exact same day as the Trisha Meili assault. In Brooklyn, a woman was assaulted and thrown from a four-story roof by two men. She survived but suffered serious injuries. The victim in this crime was a Black woman, and the media, along with Donald Trump, largely ignored her story.

  • The Families Of The Central Park Five Received Death Threats After Trump’s Ad Ran

    The intense media coverage surrounding the Central Park Five didn’t just affect the five teenagers. It was also terrible for their families, and many of them received death threats in the wake of the arrests and the publication of Donald Trump’s ad. As Yusef Salaam described it, “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious. We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.”

  • The Five's Lawyer Argued Trump's Ad Had A Negative Effect On The Jury

    The confessions given by the Central Park Five, coerced from them after hours of intense questioning, were full of inconsistencies. Plus, DNA evidence gathered from the crime scene cleared the Five and pointed toward another attacker altogether. The Five’s lawyer, Michael W. Warren, would go on to claim that Trump’s newspaper ad had an unfair impact on the court proceedings, saying, “A lot of people felt it colored the eyes of prospective jurors who ultimately sat on the case.” Despite this, the Central Park Five were all convicted in August 1990 on various charges, and they were each sentenced to jail terms between five and fifteen years.

  • Twelve Years Later, The Real Attacker Confessed And Was Confirmed With DNA Evidence

    It took 12 years - much of which the Five spent incarcerated - but the Central Park Five were finally exonerated in 2002 when the real attacker, a serial rapist named Matias Reyes confessed to the crime. He was motivated to confess after meeting Kharey Wise in prison, realizing he was the reason Wise had been incarcerated since his teens. Reyes was already serving a life sentence and was a serial assailant, and he gave details of the assault on Trisha Meili that could only come from someone who was there. Reyes claimed he acted alone, and his DNA confirmed he was, indeed, the person who raped Meili.