When 14-year-old Kevin Richardson entered New York’s Central Park on a spring evening in 1989, he had childish worries.

“Most of all, I was afraid to break the curfew,” Richardson said. “I had no idea I was about to go to jail.”

But an eighth-grader was arrested on the way home that night, and along with four other black and Hispanic teenagers was faced with a nightmarish journey through the criminal justice system.

Young people, known as the Five in Central Park, have been in custody day after day, year after year, for a heinous crime they did not commit.

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“At one time I didn’t want to talk about it,” said Richardson, who was falsely accused of beating and raping a running woman.

“But the world needs to know about these cases,” he said.

Richardson and his friend from Central Park Five, Corey Wise, spoke of their injustice Monday night during an emotional speech hosted by the Burlington County Attorney’s Office to mark Black History Month.

Corey Wise (left to right), Yousef Salam, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Anthron McCray in November 2012.

“We told them we were innocent,” said Richardson, the youngest participant in Central Park Five.

“Of course, because of the way we looked, we were in a hurry with the trial,” he said.

Introducing the speakers at the virtual event, Berlington County Attorney Scott Coffin noted that the teens never came close to justice as they were pushed through police stations, courtrooms and detention centers.

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