Three men of color who were wrongfully accused and convicted, as teens, of raping a woman in the late 1980s received honorary high school diplomas on Monday.
The three men, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana Jr., participated in a graduation ceremony, with nearly 60 teenagers, to receive their diplomas from Bronx Preparatory High School.
“Even though we were not able to go back and right the wrong of not getting our high school diplomas outside, here we are being honored in such a way in front of our family and friends,” Salaam said, according to the Times. “This is a blessing.”
The men, now in their 40s, were clad in blue graduation gowns at Monday's ceremony, which Santana described as overwhelming. "When we went to prison, this was taken away from us,” he expressed. “It was something we never got to experience. You felt like you were being robbed, and we’ve finally found redemption.”
According to the Times, the three each previously received GEDs and associate degrees while they were incarcerated.
They were among the nationally dubbed 'Central Park Five' – a group of five black and Latino teenagers – accused of the heinous crime of raping a female jogger in the famed park of the same name. The teens spent between seven and 13 years in prison, even after insisting that the statements the gave had been coerced by authorities.
A decade after the convictions, the five men were exonerated by DNA evidence, which confirmed that the crime had been committed by another man.
The state and city of New York settled a civil lawsuit with the group for nearly $45 million.
Bronx Preparatory High School's assistant principal, Cassius Gil, informed that Antron McCray and Kharey Wise, the two absent members of the 'Central Park Five', will receive their honorary diplomas by mail.