The case over Tawana Brawley, a young black girl, created a media circus back in 1987
in New York City
. Here is an account of the goings on.
Tawana Brawley is found covered in feces and wrapped in garbage bags outside the Pavilion Condominiums in Wappingers Fall, New York. Her appearance leads investigators to believe that she had undergone an extremely traumatic experience, parts of her hair were cut off, her pants were burned, and there was a racial slur scrawled on her body. She tells the authorities that she had been held against her will and repeatedly raped by a gang of white men, one of whom she claimed had a police badge.
The case becomes a cause celebre when a couple of controversial attorneys, C.Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox declare their support for Brawley. Never one to miss out on some free publicity, enter the Reverend Al Sharpton, who also declares his support for Brawley. All three allege that there was a police cover-up of the investigation that extended to the highest ranks of the NYPD.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how one views the case, Brawley's story did not hold up under the close scrutiny that followed. Although she claimed to have been abducted and held for four days, nobody filed a missing persons report for her during that time. Little concrete evidence is found that Brawley had been attacked and suspicion begins to increase that her story is fabricated. Several witnesses come forth stating that they saw Brawley at a party while she was supposedly missing. Fiber evidence suggests that Brawley had most likely written the racial slurs on herself.
The media in New York is now having a field day. In the face of mounting criticism of how her attorneys are handling the case, wild unfounded accusations begin to be made. Among them, her attorneys and advisors start claiming that the Assistant District Attorney - Stephen Pagones - had participated in the alleged rape and that the Special Prosecutor - Robert Abrams -was seen masturbating to the photos that were admitted as evidence.
As the media circus continues, Brawley and her family refuse to testify or cooperate with the investigation. This did not stop them from accepting financial contributions from supporters.
Finally, in October of 1988, a Grand Jury dismissed the entire matter. Both of her attorneys, Mason and Maddux, faced disciplinary proceeding from the New York State Bar for their conduct during the investigation. Stephen Pagones, the Assistant District Attorney - filed a libel suit against Mason, Maddox, and Sharpton for the allegations made against him during the investigation. He eventually won the libel suit in 1998.
Update: August 5, 2013
Well, it only took 26 years but Tawana Brawley has finally begun to make payments to Stephen Pagones in settlement of the judgement against her. So far, she has paid $3,800.00 but still owes him another $431,000.00. For what it's worth, Pagones said he'd drop the whole thing in return for a public apology.
So far, Brawley has declined to comment on the matter.