The lawyer for one of the Trinitarios gangbangers arrested for the public execution of an innocent Bronx teen compared his client to the “Central Park Five” in court Monday — and earned a swift rebuke from one of those wrongly convicted men.
Making a point about barring photographers from future proceedings so his client Antonio Hernandez-Santiago would not be convicted in the court of public opinion, lawyer Patrick Joyce said “not so long ago in this city the media latched onto individuals who were accused of horrific crimes…a private citizen said they are guilty, they should get the death penalty. When no one knew what really happened.”
He later confirmed by phone that he was referring to the five youths wrongfully accused and sent to jail for the brutal beating and rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989. Donald Trump at the time took out a full-page ad in a local paper calling for the men’s executions. They were later exonerated by DNA evidence and the actual killer’s confession.
One of the exonerated, Yusef Salaam, told The Post Monday that everyone deserves their day in court, but that the lawyers’ defense rings hollow given the mountain of video evidence against Hernandez-Santiago and his cohorts.
“This is really strange and unfortunate situation, because you have the attorney invoking the Central Park jogger case in something that is so compellingly one-sided. The video is very damning,” Salaam said.
Hernandez-Santiago is one of eight suspected Trinitarios gang members accused of killing 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz outside a Bronx bodega in a grisly slaying that has had the city on edge.
All eight have pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
Meanwhile, the slain boy’s mother, father, sister and brother-in-law were in court Monday facing his accused killers.
“It was hard,” mom Leandra Feliz told The Post of confronting the men. “I don’t have words to explain.”
Joyce made the eyebrow-raising Central Park Five connection during a court appearance where seven of the accused waived their right to testify before a grand jury. An eighth suspect has already waived that right.
Five black and Hispanic teenagers — Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Salaam — were wrongfully convicted in the notorious 1989 rape of a Central Park jogger.
A judge granted a motion to vacate the 13-year-old convictions in 2002 after an incarcerated serial rapist admitted he committed the crime — a confession backed up by DNA evidence. The five filed a wrongful-conviction suit against the city in 2003 and settled for $41 million in 2014.+
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