A previously forgotten sixth co-defendant in the infamous Central Park Five rape case wept openly in a Manhattan courtroom Monday as his more than three decade-old conviction was overturned.
Steven Lopez, 48, who as a teenager pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of robbing a male jogger, was cleared after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his attorneys filed a motion to vacate the conviction.
“Mr. Lopez was charged and pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and immense external pressure,” Bragg told the court.
Lopez’s exoneration came a full two decades after the convictions of his co-defendants in the 1989 case were overturned.
The DA said a re-investigation of the case found Lopez, then 15, had “involuntarily” pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors. The probe, led by Assistant District Attorney Terri Rosenblatt in the Post-Conviction Justice Unit, was launched in March 2021 after Lopez approached prosecutors a month prior, asking for a review of his conviction.
“Unique circumstances, combined with Mr. Lopez’s youth, made his plea involuntary – and therefore unconstitutional,” Bragg said.