Trump, exonerated five

Exonerated Five Member Says Trump Verdict Is ‘Karma’

Santana described his experience of seeing Trump found guilty as surreal.

Raymond Santana, a member of the Exonerated Five, believes that the 34-0 verdict handed down in Donald Trump’s New York hush money case is a result of the now-convicted felon’s bad karma. Santana, now an actor, is one of the individuals Trump took out several full-page ads in New York City papers about in 1989, calling for New York to adopt the death penalty following the attack and arrest of the then-teenagers despite their innocence. Santana is one of five Black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted of a 1989 rape in Central Park. They were exonerated in 2002 after spending five to 13 years in prison.

As The Hill reports, Santana commented during an appearance on CNN where he spoke with anchor Victor Blackwell. 

“For me, it was about karma,” Santana said. “It was the example of, this is what happens when rich billionaires who stand on white privilege now have to answer, right?”

Santana continued, “So it becomes a surreal moment. It also becomes a moment where you just got to take it in, right? This is the stuff that we had to deal with of 1989: going through trial, hearing the conviction, hearing a guilty verdict. And then, now having to sit there and wait for sentencing. I understand that process all too well.”

Santana’s 1989 reference was a call back to when he and four other Black and Latinx teenagers were wrongfully convicted of the rape of a white woman who was jogging in Central Park. They ended up serving time until 2002 when advancements in DNA evidence collection proved that there was nothing connecting them to the crime. 

Blackwell referred to Trump’s call for their execution during the segment, saying that the newly minted felon “called for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York” against the 14- and 15-year-old young men. 

Santana described his experience of seeing Trump found guilty as surreal, telling Blackwell, “And, so, I think now, it’s like, you get to see a person of Donald Trump’s stature right,” Santana said. “Who was a former president, and now you get to see that he’s not above the law, that he can be touched. That he can have this experience that’s very similar to mine. It becomes a moment that is a surreal moment. It’s a full circle moment for me.” 

Al Sharpton, who often defended Santana and the other members of the Exonerated Five, also referred to their ordeal in his own statement regarding Trump’s verdict. 

“These children had to hear vitriol from people whose anger was incited by a man who spent a small fortune on full-page ads calling for their execution. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Donald Trump is the criminal, and those five men are exonerated. I’m reminded of Dr. King’s proverb that the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

As the Associated Press reported, Sharpton also referred to the fact that Trump and the Exonerated Five were tried in the same courthouse. 

“This is the same building that Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise all passed into, day after day, as they endured a show trial for a crime they did not commit.”

Salaam, now a New York City councilman, released a statement via Twitter/X explaining that he was not taking pleasure in the verdict but exhorting the country to be better. 

“We should be proud that today the system worked,” Salaam wrote. “But we should be somber that we Americans have an ex-President who has been found guilty on 34 separate felony charges. We have to do better than this. Because we are better than this.”

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