According to the New York Daily News, sources close to Yusef Salaam believe the Exonerated 5 member has indicated his intention to run for the soon-to-be-vacant Harlem state senate seat. The 47-year-intention old’s to run for public office comes nearly two decades after his rape conviction, along with that of his four accomplices, was overturned.
Senator Brian Benjamin, a Democrat, currently holds the seat. But he’ll be leaving soon to take up a new position as Lieutenant Governor of New York. Last week, Benjamin was nominated for the role.
Salaam has already defined what he wishes to concentrate on if he wins the seat, according to sources who spoke to the news site, and these are things that he values. Criminal justice and prison reform, police brutality, and the abolition of youth solitary confinement are among them.
Salaam, along with Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise, were convicted of violently attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park in 1989 and served between seven and thirteen years in prison. In 2002, the five men were exonerated after rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the incident, using DNA evidence to back up his claim.
Salaam, who is now a motivational speaker, activist, and author, spent nearly seven years in prison. In a May interview with NPR, Salaam said, “The overwhelming emotion that I have towards the police and prosecutors is that they knew we hadn’t done this crime.”
“They were aware of it, yet they chose to proceed. They made a living off of our backs. They were caught up in the law of karma.”
The five men were awarded a $41 million settlement from the city of New York in 2014. They also received an additional $3.9 million in 2016, with Korey Wise, the one who served the most time in prison, receiving $1.5 million, according to the New York Daily News.
After Benjamin vacates the seat, a special election date has yet to be announced. However, it is expected that it will take place in November when other elections will also be held.
Salaam earned his GED while jailed. He also earned an associate’s degree from Dutchess Community College before continuing his education at Hunter College. In 2016, President Barack Obama presented him with a lifetime achievement award.
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