It’s been years since Raymond Santana and four of his friends were exonerated in the brutal rape and assault of a New York City jogger in 1989. President Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman at the time, still hasn’t apologized for calling for their life-long incarceration, however.
On Thursday, Santana spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper to discuss Trump’s pardoning of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who was serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense. The president’s decision came after a recent meeting with reality star Kim Kardashian West, who advocated on Johnson’s behalf.
Then-real estate mogul Trump showed much less sympathy 30 years ago when Santana and his friends, who became known as the Central Park Five, were wrongfully jailed and convicted for a crime they didn’t commit. He purchased full-page ads in several New York City newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty and stronger policing to bring the alleged rapists to justice.
Santana applauded Johnson’s sentence being commuted but argued the action doesn’t reflect Trump’s true character.
“Because of this mass track record, because we know that he’s deceitful, he’s lied several times, he’s fabricated things, it’s very hard to believe that it comes from a genuine place,” Santana told Cooper. “Then he met with Kim Kardashian, who spoke to him, and consulted with him, and she swayed him to do this. So it just proves that, at the end of the day, he’s still full of lies and still full of trickery.”
Despite DNA evidence clearing the Central Park 5 in the brutal assault, Santana said Trump still sees him and his friends as “guilty.”
“We were still guilty in his eyes, so at the end of the day, this move does not look like it comes from a good place,” he continued. “We can’t trust him. You can’t just dangle Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in our face and say … ‘look I have a heart, and I deserve a pass.’ ”
The once-incarcerated man didn’t downplay Kardashian’s role, however, but thanked her for her efforts. He said more celebrities should step up and advocate for folks with less power.
I gave @KimKardashian a lot of flack about speaking on #PrisonReform, but when I found out she went to champion on #AliceJohnson behalf, I had to eat my words.. apologies to @KimKardashian recognize your work. #salute https://t.co/GDPkte6jtG
— The Exonerated 5 (@santanaraymond) June 6, 2018
“Our celebrities, this is what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “They have this major influence, and they have a duty to the public, those people who support them. They’re supposed to champion for a cause like this.”
As for the president, Santana said he hopes Trump does more to help underserved communities, as well as address issues of ” … police brutality, mass incarceration, unemployment and education.”
Hear more of his comments above.