Syracuse University (SU) has announced that it will give an honorary undergraduate degree to Kevin Richardson, a man who was falsely accused with four other teens of brutally assaulting and raping a white woman and subsequently convicted in the infamous Central Park Jogger case in 1989.
The Central Park Five case became the subject of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix film “When They See Us”, which gained wide attention last year. Before Richardson was jailed at 14, he had dreams of attending Syracuse University in upstate New York where he hoped to study music.
Last year, students at the University started a petition to give an honorary degree to Richardson. On Monday, Syracuse University said it will award an honorary bachelor of arts in fine music to Richardson at its next commencement ceremony. It said it had wanted to give him a doctoral honorary degree but Richardson asked for the bachelor’s degree he wished to earn before he was jailed.
“This means the world to me from all the trials and tribulations I’ve been through,” Richardson said in a video on SU’s website.
SU said his degree will be the first honorary undergraduate degree issued by SU. In September 2019 when Richardson visited SU for the first time, he was “honored with the creation of a scholarship in his name which is awarded with a preference for supporting Black and Hispanic students with unmet financial need,” SU writes.
That same year, it emerged that the Central Park Five received a $3.9 million settlement from the New York State Court of Claims in 2016 in addition to the $41 million received in 2014.
That latest settlement was for the economic and emotional ruin the five men endured when they were incarcerated as teens for the 1989 rape and assault of a jogger in Central Park, according to the New York Daily News.
The men – Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Richardson – served between six and 13 years in prison. They were later exonerated in 2002 when rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the attack, with DNA evidence supporting his claim.
In 2014, the five men received a $41 million settlement from New York City, but it was discovered in 2019 that, in addition to that payout, Korey Wise, the individual who served the longest prison time, also received $1.5 million from the state in 2016.
Former co-defendants Yusef Salaam and Kevin Richardson received $650,000, while Raymond Santana received $500,000 and Antron McCray received $600,000, the NY Daily News report said.
“I understand people say it’s a lot of money. The reality is there’s no amount of money that would adequately compensate them,” Jonathan Moore, one of the attorneys in both settlements said.
“They’ve suffered every day since 1989 and they’re still suffering.”