06/24/2014 09:32 am ET Updated Jun 24, 2014

De Blasio Defends Central Park Five Settlement As 'Moral Obligation'


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio upheld his decision to settle the "Central Park Five" lawsuit against the city for close to $40 million, calling it a means to bring justice to five men wrongfully convicted of brutally raping a female jogger in 1989.

"An injustice was done and we have a moral obligation to respond to that injustice," de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference Monday. "I think that the way we've proceeded was [with] an understanding that that had to be rectified, in a way that made sense and a way that was mindful and careful, but I think we're on the right track.

"And I think the moral issue is quite clear and obviously was made clear by the court decisions in recent years," he added.

In 2002, DNA evidence and a confession by convicted rapist Matias Reyes cleared the men and their convictions were formally vacated. The Central Park Five, who had been convicted as juveniles, had served up to 13 years in jail.

While campaigning for office, de Blasio vowed to reach a "swift settlement" of the lawsuit, which was filed by the wrongfully convicted men more than 11 years ago.

The suit accused the city of false arrest and racially motivated prosecution against the five, who are black or Latino. At trial as teens, they had argued their confessions had been coerced during exhausting interrogations by investigators who did not allow their parents to be present.

De Blasio's predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had argued police had not committed any wrongdoing and fought the lawsuit for nearly a decade.

Following news of the settlement on Thursday, one of the exonerated men, Kharey Wise, expressed his gratitude towards the mayor for finally settling the lawsuit.

“I feel good,” Wise said, according to the New York Daily News. “Things are good.”

The Wall Street Journal reports the mayor would not comment on specifics of the settlement, citing its open status. In an op-ed published by the Daily News on Saturday, New Yorker Donald Trump called the settlement "a disgrace," arguing it was "politics at its lowest and worst form."