Central Park 5 member delivers keynote to graduating class

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THE BRONX -

After being wrongfully convicted of a brutal crime as a teenager and spending years in prison, one of the boys in the group known as the Central Park Five told his story as an adult to a high school graduating class.

Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam went to jail before they graduated high school themselves. They were convicted of brutally beating and raping a 28-year-old female jogger in Central Park in 1989, along with two other teens. They were tried and convicted almost exclusively on their own confessions, which the boys testified were coerced by detectives. None of their DNA matched the DNA found on the victim.

Salaam, now a motivational speaker, delivered the graduation keynote address Monday to students of Bronx Preparatory Charter School at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts.

There wound up being a light at the end of the tunnel for the Central Park Five. A convicted murderer and rapist confessed to the crime in 2002, and his DNA matched that found in the semen on the victim. The boys were exonerated, and they are now receiving honorary high school diplomas.

The two other members of the Central Park Five, who also came to the graduation ceremony, are also doing well. One just launched a clothing line and the other is working in real estate.

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