Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated Central Park Five, had just one word to say on former President Donald Trump’s indictment Thursday: “Karma.”
Salam was among five Black and brown teenagers wrongfully imprisoned for the 1989 rape of a white woman in New York’s Central Park, a case that was explored in the 2019 Netflix series “When They See Us.” Salaam served nearly seven years in prison before he and the other wrongfully accused teens were exonerated in 2002.
In 1989, before any of the five teens had been tried, Trump, then a Manhattan real-estate developer, took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York. People involved with the case later said that although Trump’s ads never explicitly called for the death penalty for the defendants, they played a major role in securing a conviction.
Salaam, who recently announced his candidacy for New York City Council, noted Thursday that Trump never “said sorry for calling for my execution.”
In 2019, when Trump was asked if he would apologize, he said: “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.”
Members of the five, now criminal justice activists, say they were coerced by police into confessing.
“During the hours of relentless questioning that we each endured, detectives lied to us repeatedly,” Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana wrote in a 2019 opinion article for The New York Times, describing themselves as “terrified young boys” at the time.
“They said they had matched our fingerprints to crime scene evidence and told each of us that the others had confessed and implicated us in the attack. They said that if we just admitted to participating in the attack, we could go home. All of these were blatant lies.”
Trump was indicted Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury for his role in a $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election. The payment was given in exchange for the adult film actor’s silence about an affair she claims she’d had with Trump a decade earlier.