Yusef Salaam, the author and activist who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated as a member of the “Central Park Five,” has won a seat on the New York City Council.
Yusef was 1 of the 5 of a group of Black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of the rape of a white woman in Central Park in 1989. Salaam was 14 years old at the time of his arrest and conviction and served six years of a 15-year sentence.
After serving six years in prison, DNA evidence was discovered that pointed to another man, Matias Reyes, as the perpetrator of the rape. Reyes, who was already serving a life sentence for murder, confessed to the crime in 2002 and provided details that only the actual attacker would have known. They are now known as the “Exonerated Five.”
The convictions of the Central Park Five were vacated in 2002. They received a $41 million settlement from the City of New York. After his release from prison, Salaam pursued a career as a motivational speaker and activist. He has written a book about his experiences, “Better Not Bitter: A Memoir of the Exonerated Five.” He has also been active in prison reform and racial justice advocacy.
Salaam ran unopposed after winning the Democratic primary in the city’s 9th District in a landslide. The district extends from the northernmost parts of Harlem down to the top of Central Park.
The attack drew national attention, including that of Trump.
Then a New York-based real estate magnate, Trump took out a newspaper ad calling on New York state to re-institute the death penalty.
In 2016, Salaam was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by President Barack Obama. He is also the subject of Ava DuVernay’s award-winning Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.”