Crooked City

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Central Park Five Settlement Leaves Victim Desperate For Justice

If there is any image that conveys the horror of the recent Central Park Five settlement, it is the attempts by Patricia Meili, the victim of a 1989 brutal attack and gang rape in Central Park, to call up medical staff who treated her and ask them to make public their opinion that she was attacked by more than one offender. 

Ms. Meili, who has no memory of the night she was attacked while jogging in Central Park, has been abandoned by the criminal justice system that was supposed to bring her attackers to justice. Now, these thugs are rich beyond their wildest dreams, as if they just won the lottery. The new Democratic mayor of New York, de Blasio, is selling out this poor woman, prosecutors, and police who investigated the crime, and the people of New York who he's supposed to represent. 

Meili's attackers obtained an exoneration and sought compensation based on the statements of a serial rapist and killer Matias Reyes. Reyes emerged in the case because his DNA was tied to the crime, years after the five offenders had been convicted. Wrongful conviction activists claimed the DNA exonerated the youths, but police and prosecutors had always maintained Meili had been attacked by several offenders. The presence of Reyes' DNA only proved he was another offender. Reyes, who had much to gain by saying so, announced he was the sole offender in the case.

Police, prosecutors, and a smattering of journalists who looked at the crime scene and confessions of the youths knew the claim was ludicrous. The evidence of multiple attackers was vast and the evidence against the five youths rock solid, including their confessions and statements, many of which could only have been made by someone at the scene. 

For years, former Republican Mayor Bloomberg refused to settle the case, standing fast on the findings of the two trials and appeals that convicted the five youths, who had attacked other people the same night in the park.

It's a massive settlement for the city and a sign that the wrongful conviction movement that got its start in Chicago has spread throughout the country. 

With this settlement, victim Patricia Meili gropes desperately for justice in the case. 

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Meili said she suffered amnesia as a result of the attack and has no memory of it. She said that over the years she has discussed her injuries with her doctors and they shared their opinions that some of the wounds weren't consistent with Mr. Reyes' description of the attack. Ms. Meili, who said she hasn't been contacted by city attorneys negotiating the settlement, said she gave the doctors permission to discuss her injuries and medical treatment.

"I will never know what happened that horrible night," Ms. Meili said. "But I am determined to give voice to this information that people just seem to gloss over and ignore."

From the gunshot victims in the Anthony Porter case to the burn victims in the Madison Hobley arsons, the plight of victims and their families are often glossed over and ignored in the wrongful conviction movement, as is the clear evidence that refutes the wrongful conviction claims. 

In order to bolster their theory that the youths were innocent, despite the fact that they all confessed with their parents in the room, on video, a confession that survived numerous court challenges, attorneys for the thugs claimed--what else?-- a conspiracy by police and prosecutors. The claim is that a dozen detectives and prosecutors working the case could have come up with a common story, agreed to stick with it, knowing they were incarcerating the wrong offenders and the real one was getting away because, after all, cops and prosecutors are all bunch of racists anyway, right?

But now, with at least a few journalists willing to look at the facts of the investigation and interview central witnesses, this claim, like many wrongful conviction theories, quickly unravels. A journalist for the Wall Street Journal interviewed the medical staff who treated Meili. 

Dr. Kurtz said Ms. Meili, then a 28-year-old investment banker, nearly bled to death from five lacerations to her head.

Three of those injuries were blunt wounds that could have been caused by the tree limb and rock that Mr. Reyes, now 43, said he used in the attack, Dr. Kurtz said. But two other wounds were caused by a cutting instrument, such as a knife or razorblade, he said. In the portions of his confessions made public, Mr. Reyes didn't mention using sharp weapons.

"There had to be another individual or a group who inflicted injuries with a sharp-edged instrument if he only used a blunt object," Dr. Kurtz said.

He was called by the government and testified at the trials of the five men. But lawyers didn't ask what weapons could have caused the lacerations, Dr. Kurtz said.

Jane Haher, the former chief of plastic surgery at Metropolitan, said she examined Ms. Meili the day after the attack. Dr. Haher said what she saw on Ms. Meili's legs, which were swollen with fluids, was something "I'll never forget as long as I live."

There were several sets of handprints, as if left on clay, indented on Ms. Meili's thighs, calves, ankles and behind her knees, Dr. Haher said. That indicated to her that "people held her legs down while somebody did this horrible act."

Dr. Haher said the hand marks weren't technically injuries and she didn't record them on her medical chart. "I was not thinking of the legal case," she said.

Dr. Kurtz is in possession of Ms. Meili's medical records. He said he remembered speaking with Dr. Haher about the handprints. But he said the marks didn't strike him as unusual because media reports at the time said there were multiple people involved in the attack.

Dr. Haher said she was questioned by city attorneys fighting the men's lawsuit about six years ago. She said she hasn't been contacted by the current administration.

The lawyers representing the thugs response to these statements? Well, the doctors and medical staff are part of the conspiracy too! l That's right, the detectives somehow called the doctors and nurses at some point and asked them to jump on the bandwagon.

"Hey Doc, listen, you don't know me. I'm a New York city detective. I was wondering if you would be willing to join in on a conspiracy with me, my colleagues, and some prosecutors. There is nothing in it for you and you could ruin your reputation and be prosecuted and lose everything you have, but we'd really appreciate your help."

From the article:

Jonathan Moore, an attorney who represents three of the five plaintiffs in their lawsuit, said there is "absolutely no evidence," including medical records, supporting the doctors' claims.

The doctors coming forward at this point, he said, appears to him to be part of a conspiracy that stretches from former detectives, prosecutors and others "responsible for this terrible injustice." It is a desperate attempt, he said, to scuttle the settlement talks to protect their reputations.

"You're talking about someone who said it's not in the [medical] records but he just remembers it from 25 years ago?" Mr. Moore said.

Both doctors denied that they are part of any conspiracy. Dr. Kurtz said his information consists of "medical facts." Dr. Haher said she is "just telling the truth about what I saw that day."

Mr. Moore is correct that Ms. Meili's medical records lack specificity, Dr. Kurtz said. The records only list the size and location of the lacerations, which he said is standard. "I watched those wounds as they healed," he said. "I know what they looked like."

Thought lawyers were disgusting they are assailing the trauma staff who saved Meili's life when many thought she would not survive the attack.

And the city attorneys?

The doctor, now 72, said city lawyers litigating the case have never contacted him. He said he thought it was important that city officials are aware of his information after Mr. de Blasio said he wanted to settle the case. A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio did not return a message seeking comment.

Why listen to the medical staff who treated the victim and observed her wounds when you have the solemn word of a serial rapist and killer?

Meantime, Ms. Meili fights to find out what truly happened to her, wondering if the men who raped and nearly killed her are now multimillionaires compliments of New York City...