Steven Lopez was one of the teenagers arrested alongside the infamous Central Park Five — Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg dropped the charges against Lopez on Monday (July 25).
Bragg said in court as he filled the motion, “Mr. Lopez was charged and pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and immense external pressure.” Lopez, who never went to trial with the other boys, was charged for the 1989 assault and rape of a female jogger in Central Park. He struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid trial for the rape charge and was charged with assaulting and robbing a male jogger. Lopez served four years in prison before being released in the 1990s.
In February 2002, DNA evidence revealed that none of the teens participated in the assault or rape. The DA’s office dropped the rape convictions the same year. The same evidence led to the conviction of Matias Reyes, who confessed to sexually assaulting five other women. “All of the factors taken together – as set forth in our motion papers – show what the people believe are unique circumstances, combined with Mr. Lopez’s youth, made his plea involuntary – and therefore unconstitutional,” Bragg said.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ellen Biben agreed with Bragg’s argument. So Biben granted the motion, vacated the plea, and dismissed Lopez’s indictment. “Mr. Lopez, we wish you peace and healing,” Biben said. The defendant, who is now 48 years-old, shook his attorneys hand and emotionally said, “Thank you,” with tears in his eyes.
The Central Park Five, which became known as The Exonerated Five, received a $40 million settlement from the city for their wrongful convictions. Lopez didn’t receive a dime from the settlement and his conviction remained in place until 2022. Additionally, there’s a seventh defendant — Michael Briscoe — who also pleaded guilty to the assaulting another male jogger.