Cops criticize DA's probe
December 6, 2002
Some police officials reacted with scorn and indignation yesterday to the Manhattan district attorney's reinvestigation of the Central Park jogger case, saying the prosecutor heading the probe blocked their efforts to determine if Matias Reyes's claim that he alone raped the jogger was credible.
The officials, who asked not to be named, said Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Nancy Ryan would not allow detectives to give Reyes a polygraph; failed to thoroughly interview the detectives who handled the case in 1989; stopped police from interviewing Reyes in prison; blocked efforts to interview inmates who knew the serial rapist; and refused to investigate Reyes' connections to one of the young men convicted in the case.
"The question is why," one of the officials said. "That about sums up the way many people here feel."
Ryan was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office, declined to comment when apprised of the police criticisms.
The police officials, who asked that their names not be used, said NYPD detectives sought to give Reyes a polygraph to determine if he was being truthful when he said he alone raped a 28-year-old investment banker in Central Park on April 19, 1989.
Reyes' credibility, the officials said, was the key issue in the reinvestigation. But Ryan did not press hard enough in establishing whether Reyes' claim of acting alone was accurate, the officials said.
The feeling that Ryan did not challenge Reyes enough goes beyond police officials.
Michael Palladino, vice president of the Detectives Endowment Association, also assailed Ryan's investigation yesterday.
"The criminal justice system has hit an all-time low when we start giving more credibility to the words of a convicted murderer and rapist than we do to New York City detectives," Palladino said. "My concern is the message sent not only to the detectives but to the public."
But it was high-ranking police officials who at times yesterday seemed most upset.
One police official said that while most people who reinvestigated the case have no doubt that Reyes, whose semen was found on the woman and one of her socks, raped the jogger, his credibility remains in doubt.
"Put another way," the official said, "you can say without doubt, he took part in the rape. That is all."
While there is often a natural tension between detectives and prosecutors, several police officials said there were numerous questions about Ryan's handling of the reinvestigation.
For one, the officials said, Ryan gave short shrift to the original detectives in the case during her interviews with them. One of those detectives has told Newsday Ryan interviewed him for only 15 minutes and did not allow him to consult his notes.
She also would not allow detectives to interview Reyes in prison, police officials said.
"These were experienced detectives," said a police official. "She interrupted them. She didn't challenge some of the statements he made."
She also prevented detectives from speaking to other inmates who knew Reyes by calling their lawyers and telling them their clients should not agree to be questioned by the detectives, the officials said.
One police official said Ryan refused to look at what if any relationship Reyes and Kharey Wise, one of the convicted young men, had when the two served time in the same prison two years ago. Some detectives speculated that Reyes may have claimed he acted alone to ingratiate himself with Wise.
"There was a feeling she didn't want to look at that," the official said. "Why?"
The Trail of the Jogger Case
April 19, 1989: A woman out for an evening jog through Central Park is attacked, raped and left for dead. Several other park visitors are attacked by teens.
April 23: Five teens - Antron McCray, Karey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson - are charged after making incriminating statements to police.
Oct. 9: FBI tests find no genetic evidence linking the suspects to the rape.
July 16, 1990: Testifying in the first of two trials, the victim says she has no memory of the attack.
Aug. 18: McCray, Salaam and Santana are convicted of rape and assault and acquitted of attempted murder.
Dec. 12: Richardson is convicted of attempted murder, rape, sodomy, robbery, assault and riot. Wise is convicted of assault, sexual abuse and rioting.
Sept. 24, 1996: McCray, sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison, is released after serving six years.
March 21, 1997: Salaam released after 6 1/2 years. He had been sentenced to 5 to 15 years.
June 24: Richardson, sentenced to 5 to 10 years, released after 6 1/2 years.
June 12, 1998: Santana, sentenced to 5 to 15 years, released after nearly eight years.
Oct. 19, 1999: Santana, sent to prison for third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, is scheduled for release July 26, 2003.
January 2002: Cops investigate claims of Matias Reyes, a serial rapist who says he alone raped and beat the jogger. DNA links Reyes and fails to link original suspects.
Aug. 12: Wise released after serving 11 1/2 years of 5-to-15- year sentence.
Aug. 30: Lawyer representing McCray, Richardson and Santana files to overturn the verdicts.
Dec. 5: Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recommends that the convictions of all five defendents be vacated.
Feb. 6, 2003: Original deadline for State Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada's decision to approve or reject motion to vacate the convictions.
© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.