Police originally alleged that the five men were part of a larger gang that roamed Central Park looking for potential victims, and that the five men viciously beat and sexually assaulted investment banker Trisha Meili.
Three of the men admitted they were in Central Park on the night in question night with a group of teenagers that was indeed responsible for at least one assault, but all have maintained that they had nothing to do with the attack on Meili. The victim had no recollection of any details of the incident.
In 2002, convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes admitted he was behind Meili's attack. DNA testing and other evidence confirmed Reyes' confession, prompting then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to file a motion to vacate the convictions.
Since their acquittal, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise have been involved in a bitter civil suit with New York City, seeking damages for the 7-13 years the men wrongfully served.
"I'm happy for them, but you know... money doesn't give them those years back. It doesn't give them their youth back," Rev. Al Sharpton told the New York Daily News.
Sharpton publicly stood with the Central Park 5 during the trial, a move that drew criticism as many viewed claims of racial bias as misdirection from the defense and an attempt to sensationalize incident.
"We took a lot of abuse. The toll on these men and their supporters was terrible. I want to know we have things in place so that this doesn't happen again," Sharpton said.
The $40 million dollar settlement awards roughly $1 million for each year served in prison. The settlement must still be approved by New York City's comptroller and a federal judge.