A member of the Central Park Five has taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times as an open letter to former President Trump after he was arraigned on 34 felony counts related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.
“Over 30 years ago, Donald Trump took out full page ads calling for my execution,” Yusef Salaam, a candidate for New York City Council, tweeted Tuesday. “On the day he was arrested and arraigned, here is my ad in response.”
Salaam detailed how his wrongful conviction, his time entangled with the justice system, and Trump’s ads and subsequent news show appearances was an experience that changed his life.
“Now, after several decades and an unfortunate and disastrous presidency, we all know exactly who Donald J. Trump is — a man who seeks to deny justice and fairness for others, while claiming only innocence for himself,” Salaam wrote.
In 1989, Salaam was one of five Black and Latino teenagers wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting a white woman in New York’s Central Park. At the time, Trump bought a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the state to adopt the death penalty over the case.
“I want to hate these murderers and I always will,” Trump wrote in his ad. “I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”
Despite Salaam and the four others — Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray — being exonerated in 2002, as well as DNA evidence identifying the actual attacker, Trump never walked back his comments.
“You have people on both sides of that,” Trump said in 2019. “They admitted their guilt.”
Last week, after the news of Trump’s indictment broke, Salaam called the moment “karma.”
But despite his wrongful conviction 30 years ago, Salaam said, the issues plaguing Black and brown communities — including inadequate housing, underfunded schools, public safety and lack of job opportunities — are the same as they were when he was a boy, and they “became worse during Donald Trump’s time in office.”
But Salaam also took time to ridicule Trump’s social media posts since his indictment.
“Here is my message to you, Mr. Trump,” Salaam said. “In response to the multiple federal and state criminal investigations that you are facing, you responded by warning of “potential death and destruction,” and by posting a photograph of yourself with a baseball bat, next to a photo of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. These actions, just like your actions leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, are an attack on our safety.”
Salaam said Americans should fight to uphold the civil liberties grounded in the Constitution every day, even as people like Trump seek to “obliterate” them.
“Now that you have been indicted and are facing criminal charges, I do not resort to hatred, bias or racism — as you once did,” Salaam said. “Even though thirty-four years ago you effectively called for my death and the death of four other innocent children, I wish you no harm.”
Salaam said he is putting his faith in the judicial system to get to the truth of this case and that he hopes Trump gets what the Exonerated Five did not — “the presumption of innocence and a fair trial.”
“And if the charges are proven and you are found guilty, I hope that you endure whatever penalties are imposed with the same strength and dignity that the Exonerated Five showed as we served our punishment for a crime we did not commit,” Salaam said.
Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges during his arraignment in Manhattan on Tuesday.