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Judge rules lawsuits by cleared Central Park jogger attack suspects can proceed

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Posted: December 12, 2007 2:13 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    NEW YORK — A judge gave a tentative go-ahead to lawsuits filed on behalf of five men wrongly convicted in the notorious 1989 Central Park jogger attack, tossing out some claims but allowing others to proceed against the city.
    U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts on Tuesday said it is possible that a civil rights conspiracy case could be filed against the city.
    She gave lawyers for the men two months to update lawsuits filed in 2003 to better explain why New York City and other defendants should be held liable for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress.
    Five teenagers were convicted of raping and beating the jogger, and all served prison time. But the men were cleared in 2002 after another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime.
    The jogger, Trisha Meili, then a 28-year-old investment banker, suffered traumatic brain injury and nearly died. Meili disclosed her identity in 2003 and published her memoir.
    The lawsuits allege that police officers and prosecutors coerced or fabricated statements and concealed evidence from defense lawyers that might have helped clear the men.
    In the decision, Batts tossed out claims of false arrest, assault, harassment, negligence, conspiracy and claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
    The judge let two conspiracy claims remain in the lawsuits. Those claims might allow the plaintiffs to show a jury evidence that police officers and prosecutors acted together to coerce and fabricate statements and conceal evidence from the defense.
    Myron Beldock, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling ‘‘complex, long and interesting’’ and said it meant a long legal road remained ahead.
    He said the families of the men ‘‘remain uncompensated and continue to suffer from the aftermath of terribly unjust convictions.’’
    Gail Donoghue, special counsel for the city’s law department, noted that the ruling limits the number of issues that can be addressed in the case and said it will ‘‘provide a better framework for future proceedings.’’

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