It was one of the most widely publicized crimes of the 1980s, when crime in New York was far more prevalent than it is now. The case pushed the rawness of racial animosity into the public conversation, which was nothing new in New York, but the jogger attack horrified the city.
Mr. Trump, who had owned the Plaza for about a year when the jogger was assaulted, took out full-page newspaper advertisements demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty. The five defendants were convicted, but their sentences were vacated 14 years later, based on DNA evidence and a confession from another man. Mr. Trump has refused to apologize for his actions or comments at the time.
By then, the two were already “classic New York characters,” recalled George Arzt, the press secretary to Mayor Edward I. Koch. “There was a clash of who is the loudest voice in New York,” he said, adding that the two made Mr. Koch’s tenure — which was marred by racial tensions — more difficult.
“Koch’s problem as mayor is that he had Trump on one side and Al Sharpton on the other side,” Mr. Arzt said. “Both of them were inflaming things.”
A year or so before the jogger in Central Park was attacked, Mr. Sharpton played a large role in publicizing another case that stunned New York: Tawana Brawley, a teenager from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., near Poughkeepsie, said she had been kidnapped, tortured and raped by a group of six white men who left her smeared with feces, and wrapped in a plastic bag.
But the incident never happened; Mr. Sharpton was found guilty of defamation for claiming that Steven A. Pagones, a former Dutchess County assistant district attorney, had been involved in the assault.
More scrutiny followed, and Mr. Sharpton was indicted on a charge of stealing at least $250,000 from the National Youth Movement, the precursor to his National Action Network. He was acquitted of all charges.