By the time Matias Reyes told police in January 2002 that he had committed the crime, most of the five had finished their sentences. One served 13 years, three served 7 years each and one 7 1/2 years.
Reyes' admission triggered a review of the evidence by the office of District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who ultimately joined with defense attorneys to move for vacatur of their convictions. Morgenthau's decision angered police, who said they were being scapegoated by the office and Assistant District Attorney Linda Fairstein, who was the lead sex crimes prosecutor at the time of the case.
Assistant District Attorney Nancy Ryan, the chief of Morgenthau's trial division, who conducted the review decried in an affirmation the activities of rampaging youth gangs in the Park "as grave and inexcusableunprovoked attacks on strangers, apparently undertaken for the fun of it, which left some terrorized, two knocked into unconsciousness, and one seriously injured."
Moreover, she acknowledged in the affirmation that, "It was logical for the people to suggest that the defendants' culpability and criminal intent could be inferred from the pattern of conduct engaged in by the group of which they were a part."
But the attack on Meili, Ryan said, was "of a far greater order of seriousness," and the "timing of events made it hard to understand when" the teens could have assaulted her.
Moreover, Ryan said that "none of the defendants accurately described where the attack on the jogger took place."
Applying the legal standard for the evaluation of evidence discovered after a judgment of conviction, Ryan wrote to the court that "we conclude that there is a probability that the new evidence, had it been available to the juries, would have resulted in verdicts more favorable to the defendants."
On Dec. 19, 2002, Justice Charles Tejada granted motions for vacatur and the state's motion to dismiss the indictments.
But a commission headed by attorney Michael Armstrong that had been appointed by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to evaluate the department's actions saw things differently.
The commission concluded in a report released on Jan. 27, 2003, that the police interrogation of the Central Park Five was properly conducted and the police could not be blamed for failing to connect Reyes to the attack.