The rape victim has said that though she has no memory of the awful attack, she would like to know who did this to her. Her wish for all the answers may not be granted, either. She fought her way back from near-death to resume her post at Salomon Brothers, more quickly than anyone predicted. She's not the same, though, and won't be. She suffers from double vision and is wobbly on her feet. She has a hard time walking in a straight line. Of late, she is said to be writing a memoir.

Linda Fairstein, a fiercely competitive, driven professional who was 41 at the time of the jogger rape, has since left the D.A.'s office to write novels about an assistant district attorney who prosecutes sex crimes. When the rape occurred, she raced into the fray to wrest the case away from Nancy Ryan, 39, another upward A.D.A. who was Fairstein's chief rival in the Morgenthau constellation. Now, Morgenthau has put Ryan in charge of his reinvestigation of the case. Those who know Fairstein say she harbors a dream of succeeding Morgenthau as Manhattan D.A. The latest developments could wreck that dream.

Nancy Ryan is said to be under lobbying siege now from police and prosecutors, former and current, who believe her report will call for the rape verdicts to be vacated. With their reputations at stake, they're trying to talk her into a less drastic decision. Fairstein is reported to be lobbying Morgenthau. If it all weren't so real, it would be a soap opera.

illustration: Yuan Lee

Robert Morgenthau, it is fair to say, is a haloed icon in the New York establishment. At 83, he has probably spent more years in public service here than any other active government official. For the past 28 years (he began his eighth consecutive term in January), he has been the Manhattan D.A. Some admirers call him "America's D.A." He has been an advocate for good government and has lent his name and time to many worthy causes. That said, he is, like all the other players in this story, a mortal being, not a deity. Like any D.A., he has in his time covered up lots of his office's mistakes. Like other big-city D.A.'s, he has also swept under a large carpet the misdeeds of myriad well-known personages. They owe him. Not long ago, his office buried an investigation into Charles Gargano, the state's economic czar, who has a recurring habit of giving big state contracts to people who make big campaign contributions to his friend Governor George Pataki. Some Morgenthau watchers think that he may have been too long with power and that with age, he may have lost his touch.

People sometimes use the phrase "the game" to describe how big systems like government and multinational corporations often get manipulated not for the common good but for the good of the people who run them. It's not a description of evil, but rather of human nature. It explains what happens when individuals have been doing things a certain way for a long time and come to believe this is always the right way. One symptom is when a player begins to focus only on winning, on trouncing the opposing side. Another is when people become so habit-formed and sure of themselves that they stop asking the question: "Could I possibly be wrong about this?"

The story of the Central Park jogger case may be in large part a story about people in the justice system playing the game—when they should have been doing the right thing.

Related Stories:

"Ash-Blond Ambition: Prosecutor Linda Fairstein May Have Tried Too Hard" by Rivka Gewirtz Little

"Marked as the Enemy: Central Park Five Members Speak" by Dasun Allah

"Across 110th Street: Changed Lives Among Central Park Five Family Members" by Rivka Gewirtz Little

"Rage Before Race: How Feminists Faltered on the Central Park Jogger Case" by Rivka Gewirtz Little

Sydney H. Schanberg, an internationally known journalist, has written extensively on foreign affairs—particularly Asia—and on domestic issues such as ethics, racial problems, government secrecy, corporate excesses and the weaknesses of the national media.

Most of his 40 years in journalism have been spent on newspapers, but his award-winning work has also appeared widely in other publications and media. The movie, The Killing Fields, which won several Academy Awards, was based on his book, The Death and Life of Dith Pran - a memoir of his experiences covering the war in Cambodia for The New York Times and of his relationship with his Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran. For his reporting on the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge, Schanberg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting "at great risk." He is also the recipient of many other journalism awards - including two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.

Schanberg's first journalism job came after college and a two-year stint in the army. The New York Times hired him in 1959 as a copy boy and he spent the next 26 years there. After rising through the clerical ranks to the reporting staff and doing local and national news for eight years, he was posted overseas - first to New Delhi, where his reporting included the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. In 1973 he moved on to Singapore, from which he covered all of Southeast Asia, but Cambodia and Vietnam in particular.

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