Tawana Brawley owes $431,000 -- or nothing at all

The woman at the center of a notorious 1987 New York City kidnapping case has ducked a defamation claim awarded to her accuser. That cost her 9% interest each year, but she won't owe anything if she recants.

By Jason Notte Aug 5, 2013 1:29PM
File photo of Tawana Brawley (© Bettmann/CORBIS)Growing up in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s meant growing up surrounded by the stories of Bernhard Goetz, Michael Stewart, Howard Beach, Bensonhurst, Eleanor Bumpurs, Crown Heights and the pall cast by racial divisions within the rapidly changing metropolitan area.

Though shadows of each of the above linger -- most recently in parallels between Goetz and George Zimmerman in the midst of the Trayvon Martin case -- few left a wound so raw as that of the case surrounding then-15-year-old Tawana Brawley.

Her story of being kidnapped, raped, smeared with feces, carved up with racial slurs and left in a garbage bag by a gang of white men, including a police officer and a Dutchess County prosecutor, in 1987 was declared a lie by a grand jury and is repeatedly used by detractors of Brawley's key supporter, the Rev. Al Sharpton, as a bludgeon against his credibility.

With Brawley now paying the first installments of a defamation suit against her by one of the men she accused, her case and its aftermath are still fresh more than 25 years later. With interest.

Former Dutchess County Prosecutor Stephen Pagones won a defamation suit against Brawley and her supporters back in 1998. Sharpton was found liable for $66,000, Brawley attorney C. Vernon Mason was found liable for $188,000 and disbarred in 1995, and attorney Alton Maddox was ordered to pay $97,000. All had their fines paid by benefactors.

Brawley, meanwhile, was ordered to pay $185,000 at 9% annual interest. After moving to Richmond, Va., becoming a nurse and avoiding payment for 15 years, Brawley's share has ballooned to $431,492. She has now been required to pay Pagones $627 out of her wages each month and $3,764.61 so far.

Pagones, who watched his first marriage and career as a prosecutor fall apart after the case, is now with a New York private investigation firm. He has remarried, has three daughters and a son, and still lives in Dutchess County. He's spent more than a decade tracking down the now 41-year-old Brawley and told The New York Post that he'd forgive the debt if Brawley recanted her story and admitted wrongdoing.

"Every week, she'll think of me," he told The Post. "And every week, she can think about how she has a way out -- she can simply tell the truth."

Brawley, who now has a husband and a young child and is employed as a nurse in a nursing home, isn't backing down. According to the Post, in a July 22 legal brief signed by Brawley and submitted by Maddox, Brawley refused to comply with the order of the New York court that handed down the defamation verdict because an appearance in the court, "which inferentially sympathizes with the Confederate States of America, would be contrary to the U.S. Constitution and would amount to a 'badge of slavery.'"

Credit Maddox with the turn of phrase. He has petitioned a Virginia court to halt the garnishing of Brawley's wages and gave a quote to the Post about the double standard perceived in New York law -- a quote that sounds remarkably like the language of his legal brief.

"The common law applies to whites," he said. "The slave code still applies to blacks."

Meanwhile, one of New York City's more sordid stories continues, the anger lingers, and the wound still festers. Like Brawley's payout, its effects have only amplified with interest.

More on moneyNOW
Aug 5, 2013 3:41PM
She wants to play the race card and the old slavery card rather than own up to her lies.

You are a disgrace.
Aug 5, 2013 4:25PM

Why is it not considered racism what she did? Accuse some innocent men because they are white. Sounds RACIST to me!

Aug 5, 2013 4:08PM
Lyin POS just like former fatA $$ Sharpton Shes the poster child for whats wrong with black society today.....and yesterday...and tomorrow....and......?
Aug 5, 2013 4:12PM
Can you imagine if this happened with the Trevon Martin verdict; George Zimmerman ordered to pay restitution to Martin's parents and he found a way to get around it. Black pundits would be all over the airways crying "racism".  These same black pundits should be all over the airways ordering Tawana Brawley to "man up" and continue having her wages garnished.
Aug 5, 2013 4:45PM
Al Sharpton is a disgrace to the human race! Am I racist?
Aug 5, 2013 3:43PM
If she doesn't like the CSA, why does she live in it's capital?
Aug 5, 2013 4:16PM
I would make her pay the rest of life regardless is admitted the truth, which is everyone knows she and Fat Al Sharpton lied! 

Aug 5, 2013 4:52PM

I lived in the area when this all happened, and remember how scared I was when her story first hit the news, as my husband at the time spent most of his time in New Jersey, leaving me alone most nights in military housing at what is now Stewart International Airport.  It only took a month or so before it became clear that her story was a lie, as she was out with an older boyfriend and told the lie so that her step father wouldn't find out she had been out all night again with this guy.  That was when her story got progressively more ridiculous and she starting blaming anyone and everyone who refused to believe her story.


It took me a long time to forgive Al Sharpton for his part in the fiasco that ensued, but until Tawanna Brawley steps forward and admits she lied, there will be no forgiveness for her from anyone.  I am black and was in my early 20's at the time.  At first I felt like I could have been her, but it didn't take long to realize she was nothing like me.  Although I strongly feel that woman has no concience as evidenced by her turning to Louis Farrakhan when Al Sharpton had finally had enough of her and the backlash, I do hope that one day she finally admits her lie publically.

Aug 5, 2013 5:29PM

I'm black, and she should pay along with her father and anyone else who tried to capitalize off this racist lie!


Aug 5, 2013 4:32PM
I do remember this case and it was Sharpton who was on TV screaming racism. I believe she was truly mislead and I know that's no excuse but Sharpton should also be paying something to someone. That is why when the whole Zimmerman trial was over it was Sharptons big mouth screaming racism he is an idiot and I can't believe anyone with a brain would believe anything that comes out of his mouth. When anyone brings up Sharptons name I bring up this case. Awful person who doesn't deserve anyones attention.
Aug 5, 2013 5:00PM
I don't understand why she and Sharpton are not in jail. I mean WTF ???  That was some serious crime. Somehow we put up with it. Enough is enough.
Aug 5, 2013 4:52PM
If you remember " only whites can be racist".... it all makes sense
Aug 5, 2013 4:58PM

Why wasn't Al Sharpton named in the lawsuit? 

After all, he probably benefited the most from the whole deal.

Aug 5, 2013 4:41PM
Oprah will step up to the plate and fork out the bucks for this.
Aug 5, 2013 7:31PM
She learned how to lie and play the race card from the sleeziest scum bags, Sharpton and Maddox.

The worst sort of poverty pimps
Aug 5, 2013 5:10PM
this is exactly why racism will never go away because the blacks don't want it to.what would al Sharpton & Jessie Jackson do.oh,they'd have to get a real job or more than likely end up living off the govn't
Aug 5, 2013 6:55PM

I spent nine months as a Bodyguard for Steve during this Civil Trial of the Century as it was described at that time by some in the press.

Steve paid a terrible price for these racist hucksters lies. He lost his job and to some extent his family.

Unfortunately Al is still at it and now  has his own TV show  for his race baiting  rants

He must have been overjoyed when the Zimmerman verdict came in.  A whole new avenue to push racial hate and to support his life style while avoiding having a job.

In my opinion Sharptons involvement in the Brawley and Zimmerman cases have moved Americas race relations back to about the same level of trust that we experienced in the 1950 timeframe..


Aug 5, 2013 8:23PM
When one speaks of Al Sharpton one immediately visualizes a pompous, ignorant, lying, self-serving racist.  And 
he USES the black community (mostly the poor and ignorant) to build up his puny life.  He is NOT an important figure
in America but HE thinks he is!  He's just some blow-hard who thinks just because he speaks loud that he's to be believed.
Poor Tawana will have to pay for Al's mistakes.  And he doesn't care about Tawana; he only cares that he was able to
USE her for his egotistical purposes.  

When will the black community open its eyes to the fact that they're being used and things ARE NOT getting better for
them.  Al Sharpton, on the other hand, is reaping money from using his own people.  But what can one expect from
someone who has no conscience?
Aug 5, 2013 4:13PM
Just curious about the job title.  Nurse...RN, LVN or what?  The title covers a lot of levels and pay grades.  Glad she is working and being productive.  i remember a little about the case but not much.  I do believe at the age of 15 she may have tried to deflect shame and/or punishment with her story but folks remember, it was the adults who ran with the story.  Sometimes the lie outlives the crime.  We are products of our environment and socioeconomic groups.  I wish there was an easier solution to this. 
Aug 5, 2013 6:56PM

This woman - and Al Sharpton - really piss me off - bunch of liars, ruined a good mans life with their nonsense, and they refuse to take responsibility for it - earth to Tawana Brawley: Wrong is wrong and has zero to do with race - get your **** in gear and do the right thing!


PS Her logic is beyond ignorance and belief

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] The Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 hover just north of their respective flat lines, while the Russell 2000 sports a solid gain of 0.6% after showing relative weakness yesterday.

Yesterday, the small-cap index reclaimed its 100-day (1150) and 200-day (1151) moving averages, but could not overtake the 50-day moving average (1152), which served as the session high for the index. Today, however, the Russell 2000 has climbed above that level and currently trades near the middle ... More