Antron McCray climbed on stage in a Manhattan theater one night last week and stepped into the kind of spotlight that, until now, has almost always meant trouble for him.
Exiled from New York, his hometown, Mr. McCray was last seen in public two decades ago as a skinny 16-year-old, practically drowning in a suit that he wore to the Manhattan courthouse where he was tried on charges that he was part of a mob that raped a jogger in Central Park and beat her nearly to death in April 1989. In the television news footage, he often held his mother’s hand as he walked past screaming demonstrators.
The audience that had just seen him as a boy — in a baseball uniform, in a police precinct station house being interrogated, in the too-big suit going to court — and had listened to his voice throughout the film could now see him as a man. At 39, his shoulders were broader, and his waist a bit thicker.
There was something he wanted to tell the audience about his anonymity.
“Here’s the reason why I escaped New York: I just had to get away,” Mr. McCray said. “Start a new life.”
That logic took him to a shocking place.
“Actually, uh,” he said, “I don’t even go by Antron McCray no more.”
Saying that out loud seemed to take even Mr. McCray by surprise, a sudden tolling of what he lost. Words thickened in his mouth. On either side of him, two of the other men, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam, squeezed his shoulders and patted his back.
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