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Crime: Matias Reyes took sole responsibility in NY Central Park jogger rape because 'it was the right thing to do': recording

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a man looking at the camera © AP Photo/ABC News He’s a rapist with a conscience.

The man behind one of the most brutal crimes in the city’s history said he confessed because “it was the right thing to do.”

Matias Reyes, whose admission that he alone raped a jogger in Central Park led to the release of five men convicted of the crime, said he had a change of heart behind bars, according to a newly-released prison recording.

“I know it’s hard for people to understand, after 12 years why a person would actually come forward to take responsibility for a crime,” Reyes, then 30, said in 2002. “I’ve asked myself that question.

“At first, I was afraid, but at the end of the day I felt it was definitely the right thing to do,” Reyes said 13 years after the headline-grabbing attack.

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The recording is part of the city’s release this week of more files from the notorious case.

The document dump includes records related to the conviction of the Central Park Five, the vacating of their convictions after Reyes’ confession and a $41 million civil settlement with the city.

The settlement included the city’s promise to make public some 200,000 pages of documents and 95 depositions, plus numerous video and audio recordings. The release began on the city’s Law Department website last month.

In an state prison interview with Vernon Fonda, a senior investigator with the Department of Corrections’ Inspector General’s office, Reyes insisted he straightened himself out behind bars.

He was serving time for raping and murdering a pregnant woman, and for raping three other women. But Reyes said took classes, participated in programs, found Jesus – and just wanted to tell the truth.

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But cops and prosecutors involved in the case said Reyes made up the story to score points with someone who could provide protection at the Auburn Correctional Facility – high-ranking Bloods prison leader, Kharey Wise — one of the Central Park Five.

According to retired detective Rob Mooney, who worked on the case, Wise confronted Reyes and told him he needed to step up and take sole responsibility for the rape.

Reyes told Fonda he knew Wise and four others had been convicted of the crime, and he said he grappled with coming forward years earlier.

“A lot of people have asked, ‘Why didn’t you say something back then?’” Reyes said in the recording. “I don’t know. Why didn’t I saw something to him? I don’t know…I wanted so bad to approach him and to speak to him and to tell him that it was me that did the crime he’s in jail for, that if he could forgive me.

“But there was a thing in the back of my head that was saying, ‘You don’t know what this kid has gone through in 12 years of his life.”

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Reyes told Fonda he asked anyone and everyone for advice.

Some inmates told him to forget about it, noting that if Wise didn’t rape the jogger he was probably guilty of some other crime.

Reyes said he “refused to believe that” and ultimately got the ear of a state correction officer, whose subsequent phone call set in motion the unraveling of a case that had divided the city along racial lines – the jogger is white, the Central Park Five black and Hispanic – and to this day is the subject of intense debate.

The Daily News reported Friday that a NYPD video re-enactment of Reyes’ story — him chasing the 28-year-old jogger, Trisha Meili, then clubbing her from behind with a tree branch — wasn’t possible given his poor physical condition and her top-notch running ability.

Mooney, as well as other detectives and prosecutors involved in the original case, maintain Reyes came upon the jogger after the others attacked her, then dragged her down a ravine and brutalized her.

But Reyes told Fonda no one else was around.

“I struck her from behind, back of the head,” he said. “She fell down. After she fell down, I dragged her to the bushes. I violated her – raped her. And after I’m finished she’s struggling. I beat her with a rock…I went off. I hit her a lot of times.

“I heard bones crushing.”

Meili, who nearly died in the attack, revealed herself publicly in a 2003 memoir.

To this day, she cannot recall the details of the night that changed her life.

Wise, who appears to have changed his first name to Korey, could not be reached for comment. He identifies himself on his cell phone recording as a “CP5 legend.”

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