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Pair Wrongly Convicted Of Raping Woman In Central Park To Be Freed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Justice has finally come for two men wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1991.

Gregory Counts cried in a Manhattan court as he listened to the Manhattan district attorney say the crime never happened. VanDyke Perry was emotional too as he was finally exonerated.

Both men say they look forward to the future, but spending years in prison for a crime they didn't commit is painful, reports CBS2's Valerie Castro.

A woman claimed that then 21-year-old Perry and 19-year-old Counts kidnapped her from her home in Queens, then drove her to Central Park where they took turns sexually assaulting her.

The victim recanted after both men had already served their sentences.

READ: OAD Press Release on Perry-Counts Exoneration

District attorney Cyrus Vance says the exonerations are part of a combined effort by the DA's office and The Innocence Project, which took the case in 2014 and had DNA evidence re-tested.

"These two men were convicted of kidnapping rape and sodomy because of the testimony of a complainant who recanted her accusations just two weeks ago," said Vance.

The alleged victim and the convicted men knew each other.

"The plaintiff now admits that her boyfriend forced her to lie and falsely claim that these men sexually assaulted her," said Vance. "Her boyfriend was trying to avoid paying a debt to these two men."

Perry was released in 2001 on parole, Counts was finally freed on parole last year after spending more than 25 years behind bars.

"It's like a torture I went through, and I know I'm sitting in jail for something I didn't do, I didn't do," said Counts.

After his release, Perry moved to Washington State to start a new life. He is now married with six children and owns a landscaping business.

"I got a good life now... It was real hard man," he said.

Despite the exoneration, Perry says this will haunt him for the rest of his life.

"It's never going to be over," he said. "The reason why, because it tormented my life and it's my past, you understand?"

Counts says it was his faith and family that help him get through his jail sentence.

"I thank God at the highest level. I give thanks to my lord and savior Jesus Christ that I have my family and my family stood by me all this time through the whole process," said Counts.

Both men plan to seek restitution.

The Innocence Project took on the case in 2014 and had DNA evidence re-tested. It matched a man who is now deceased. The victim admitted at the time of the alleged assault, she was a prostitute.

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