Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick is running for re-election, if he wins this will be his eighth term in office. The Democratic Party has placed Chuck Keller on the ballot to challenge the longtime prosecutor. His time as District Attorney has not gone without controversy. By some seen as a tough-as-nails prosecutor, while others view him with disdain. After all, he prosecutes people accused of criminal activity. There are those who’ve charged that he’s particularly harsh on people of color. His opponent has gone as far as building a campaign around the issue of race. Recently an HBO program “Who killed Garrett Philips” aired and according to Mr. Keller’s campaign, “gained the attention of national media for shining a light on unfair treatment and targeting of people of color in the criminal justice system.”
On a radio program, the TK99 morning show Gomez and Lisa in the morning, Fitzpatrick made comments regarding the HBO documentary “Who killed Garrett Philips”.
During the interview, Fitzpatrick made comments about the Central Park Five case, where he appeared very clear on what he was saying, however without knowing context, words can be weaponized. In a release Keller focuses his attention on comments made by Fitzpatrick and uses them to paint the 28-year veteran of the District Attorney’s Office, as a racist. Fitzpatrick said the following on the program;
“The Central Park Five that the city of New York thanks to Bill De Blasio gave 41 million dollars to. I mean these are five guys who individually confessed to participating in a rape in addition to participating in multiple assaults in Central Park. All of them with their parents or relatives sitting next to them videotaped and yet a very very clever producer has made it seem like they were all completely innocent.”
Chuck Keller has chosen to take and distribute a quote from the 10:45 segment of the show to back up his campaigns claims that, “Fitzpatrick’s pattern of assuming the guilt of African Americans without sufficient evidence, in addition to hiding exculpatory evidence, in concerning for the county.”
The initial report commissioned by the New York Police Department, found that no misconduct occurred during the investigation and said it was “more likely than not that the defendants participated in an attack upon the jogger.” According to the New York Times, one of the authors of the report, Stephen L. Hammerman, was the top legal adviser to the police department at the time.
What most people don’t know is that there’s a lot of information about The Central Park Five case that has flown below the public’s radar. There appears to be two reports on the incident. There’s a 43-page Executive Summary that investigated the case, submitted by Michael F. Armstrong, Esq., Stephen L. Hammerman, Esq. and Jules Martin, Esq.
There’s also the report that conflicts with the NYC Police Departments account was conducted by Bob Morgenthau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office from 2002, that claimed there were, “significant problems” with the prosecutors’ case. In an interview Fitzpatrick ultimately agrees with Morgenthau’s conclusion.
Shocking Confession Vacates Charges
In 2002, Matias Reyes a convicted serial rapist and murderer already serving time, confessed to the now infamous Central Park Jogger attack. DNA match to evidence found at the crime scene belonged to Reyes. That December a New York Supreme Court justice vacated the convictions of the five previously accused and now incarcerated men.
Lawsuit Filed against New York City
The men now known as the Central Park Five filed a civil lawsuit against New York City for “malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress”. The city of New York was in litigation for a decade before agreeing to the 41 million dollar settlement. New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio has been criticized by some in the law enforcement community for agreeing to these terms.
“According to The New York Times, the payout equaled about $1 million for each year of imprisonment, with four men serving about seven years and Wise serving about 13.”
“When They See Us” Fallout
Linda Fairstein, chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit is the Former prosecutor who oversaw the interrogation and trial of the “Central Park Five,” as depicted in Netflix series When They See Us. … some are now calling for the current Manhattan District Attorney to reopen and review Linda’s past cases. That call to reopen cases has been rejected.
Fairstein built a career and lucrative writing franchise on the Central Park Five Case. After the latest revelations, she’s either resigned from boards and/or has been shunned by those who once sang her praises. Once a heralded author Linda Fairstein was dropped by her publisher after When They See Us was aired.
A similar fate has fallen on Elizabeth Lederer, the prosecutor assigned by Linda Fairstein who handled the Central Park jogger case. On June 13, 2019 she resigned from a part-time professor position at Columbia University.
On August 2nd Keller and his supporters held a press event where the candidate went as far as calling the Onondaga County District Attorney, “racist”
As far as and charges of “racism”, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick sat down with urbancny.com to respond directly to Mr. Keller and discuss other elements of his campaign to serve an 8th term as Onondaga County District Attorney.