As Syracuse University’s class of 2020 received their degrees, Kevin Richardson also received his honorary undergraduate degree Sunday. Richardson was one of the Central Park Five wrongfully convicted for the brutal attack on a jogger in Central Park in 1989. His dream of attending SU and playing basketball was taken away from him.
As a 14 year-old boy, Richardson had so many hopes and dreams; one of which was to attend Syracuse University. But one night changed all that.
“Being 14, you know I was just scratching the surface, just getting to that age and being curious,” Richardson said. “That day was my Easter vacation. It went from joy to literally hell. To see that transpire so fast, I always say I was in a nightmare and I didn’t wake up from it."
Richardson and four others were wrongfully convicted for the attack and rape of Tricia Meili who was jogging in Central Park on April 19, 1989. He spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
“When I came home, I was 23 years old,” Richardson said. “But I lost all those precious years that we have like being on campus, going to class, walking with your fellow students.”
Richardson loved to play the trumpet and he loved basketball; talents he hoped to grow at Syracuse University.
“At 14 I always visioned being here,” Richardson said. “You know, like physically being here. That was a dream that I always thought of but I never thought I would reach it.”
In 2002, Kevin and the four other men convicted were exonerated after the real attacker, Matias Reyes, came forward.
“It was a monkey off my back,” Richardson said. “We received a law suit, but money doesn’t change that we lost those years. So just for people to know that we were telling the truth back then. We were screaming but our voices were like whispers to the world. “
Richardson can finally say he is a part of the Orange family. He is the first to receive the honorary undergraduate degree at SU.
“I never thought this day would come because unfortunately things happen," Richardson said. "You know death, COVID, things of that nature. So I really want to cherish the moment.”
Now, being a father of two girls, ages four and 13 he wants them to have all the opportunities he didn’t. He says his 13-year-old also wants to attend Syracuse University.
That one night may have changed Richardson’s life, but he is now redefining his purpose.