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Kelly: DA hindered cops' investigation

December 20, 2002

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly yesterday accused Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau of blocking access to key information in the department's reinvestigation of the Central Park Jogger case.

"I still don't have an explanation," said Kelly as to why Morgenthau allegedly blocked department investigators from obtaining the information.

Kelly said that department investigators had sought forensic evidence and access to a prison inmate and that the request was made to "the highest levels" of the district attorney's office.

He added that he had personally spoken to Morgenthau about the matter. "A clear reason is not forthcoming," he said, adding the district attorney's actions "slowed down our investigation."

Barbara Thompson, a spokesman for Morgenthau, declined to comment yesterday.

Kelly spoke at a news conference following Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Charles Tejada's dismissal of the convictions of the five Harlem teenagers for the rape of the jogger in 1989. No physical evidence was found linking the teens to the crime. Rather, they were convicted on the basis of videotaped testimony they gave while in police custody that their supporters now say was coerced.

The jogger case - which polarized the city along racial lines at the time (the jogger was white and the teenagers black and Hispanic) - continues to convulse the city 13 years later.

Earlier this year, Matias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist and murderer currently in prison, confessed to raping the jogger by himself. DNA found at the crime scene matched his, leading Morgenthau to recommend dropping the charges against the teenagers, all of whom served their sentences.

Morgenthau based his recommendation on a report by Assistant District Attorney Nancy Ryan, who top police officials maintain was "taken in," as one put it, by Reyes' claim that he acted alone. These police officials believe that although the teenagers may not have raped the jogger, they did assault her.

In a statement Kelly released yesterday, he appeared to support this view.

"There is no corroboration for his [Reyes'] claim that he acted alone other than his statement that he did so," Kelly's statement said. "A jury considering his testimony would have to take his credibility, as a murderer and serial rapist into account ...

"It is one thing to say that newly discovered evidence would have made the defendants' convictions for rape less likely and that spillover from the rape evidence unfairly affected the jury's ability to consider the other crimes," Kelly's statement said.

"It is quite another thing to say that the new evidence proves that the defendants had nothing to do with the attack upon the rape victim, much less that they were uninvolved in the various other assaults and crimes of which they were accused."

Kelly also said he had planned to have the department's report ready to present in court on Jan. 6, the day that Tejada was to make his decision.

"Unfortunately," he said, "the decision to move the hearings schedule up from Jan. 6 to today - and our inability to gain access to what we consider to be important information - prevented us from having that option."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.