Yusef Salaam served nearly seven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Now he’s asking voters to send a message to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, the man who once took out a full-page ad calling for reinstatement of the death penalty.
Salaam is one of the Central Park Five .
In 1989, five African-American and Latino teens were accused of beating and raping a 28-year-old jogger in New York’s Central Park.
They were wrongly accused. Years later, the five were exonerated and won a $40 million lawsuit against the city.
Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr., another of the teens, now live in metro Atlanta. Salaam won’t divulge his exact location.
“I’m very aware of supporters of Donald Trump,” said Salaam, now 42. “I ride around, drop my children off at school. I see those Trump-Pence signs everywhere and it makes me a little nervous. Folks are very enamored of him and sometimes they take things into their own hands.”
Salaam and Santana will be in attendance at a free screening of the award-winning documentary “The Central Park Five,” which will be held at 6 p.m. tonight at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, 101 Auburn Avenue N.E. The screening, hosted by Atlanta City Council President and mayor candidate Ceasar Mitchell, will include co-director David McMahon, and be followed by a question-and-answer session.
The case drew international attention. According to the Innocence Project, the convictions of the teens raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as, the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations.
Since the presidential election has kicked into high gear, his anxiety level has also kicked up a notch.
On the campaign trail, Trump maintains his belief they are guilty despite DNA evidence to the contrary.
“They admitted they were guilty,” Trump said this month in a statement to CNN’s Miguel Marquez. “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”
Accusations that Trump inappropriately touched and kissed women without their permission have resulted to renewed interest in how the candidate behaved during the Central Park case.
A video surfaced from 2005 of the Republican nominee in a hot-mic incident bragging about forcibly groping and kissing women.
Tump said he was able to get away with it because he was a star. During the second presidential debate he apologized, calling it “locker room talk.” He has denied allegations of other accusers.
“I’m trying to wrap my mind around the whole idea that here is is being very explicitly saying that he was involved in sexual assault and here he was calling for our deaths because we were accused,” Salaam said. “My statement to voters that anyone is better than Trump. I’m not telling people who to vote for but any one of these candidates is a better fit that Donald Trump from the most admired to the least admired.”
Salaam moved to Atlanta several years ago but admits it was like being a fish out of water. He returned to New York and eventually came back to Atlanta with his wife and blended family of 10 children. He now works as a motivational speaker. He said sharing his story has been a “tremendous healing for me.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.