Tawana Brawley’s Wages Garnished For Defamation Damages From Infamous Hoax Case

250px-al_sharpton_by_david_shankboneTbrawleyWe previously discussed the infamous case of Tawana Brawley and Al Sharpton, now a MSNBC host. In 1987, Brawley, a black teenager, falsely accused a prosecutor, a New York police officer and a state trooper of a racist attack and rape. The racial animus was fueled actively by Al Sharpton who used the case to propelled himself into national fame or infamy. She later recanted and a court ordered damages to be paid by both Brawley and Sharpton — neither of whom paid. The falsely accused former Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones tracked down Brawley living in Virginia and working as a nurse last year. He is owed $190,000 in damages against Brawley, now 40.

Brawley delivered 10 checks totaling $3,764.61 as the first payments under a court order. The court ordered the money garnished from six months of Brawley’s wages as a nurse there. That is more than Sharpton paid.

In 1987, Sharpton made himself a national figure when he organized protests after Brawley was found inside a plastic bag behind an apartment house in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. She was covered with feces and racial epithets smeared on her body and accused various white men, including Steven A. Pagones, a former Dutchess County assistant district attorney. Sharpton attacked Pagones and the other men with Ms. Brawley’s lawyers, Alton H. Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason.

Pagones was added to the list of people who abused Brawley after he came forward with an alibi for Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr. Within three days to coming forward to say that they were Christmas shopping together on one of the days, the Brawley team accused him of attacking her. Various celebrities from Bill Cosby to Spike Lee to Don King came forward to demand justice in a bonanza for the little known Sharpton at the time.

A grand jury eventually found that the account was a hoax and Pagones successfully sued Sharpton, Maddox, Mason and Brawley. Sharpton has never apologized for his role and failed to pay the damages until various businessmen came forward to pay the damages for him in 2001. As opposed to Brawley, he is not hard to find. He is a host on MSNBC every night. Sharpton’s $66,000 damages were paid by friends, including the late O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran. Yet, an apology is still not forthcoming from Sharpton.

Brawley is liable for interest at 9 percent, so the amount is $431,492. It is the height of irony. Sharpton fuels the hoax and stands next to Brawley throughout her lies as these men are destroyed publicly. He then becomes a close adviser to a president, a television host, and media favorite without paying a dime. She however is now looking at half a million dollars in damages.

Brawley is living under a different name: Tawana Vacenia Thompson Gutierrez in Hopewell, Va. and working as a licensed nurse at The Laurels of Bon Air nursing home. She can challenged the garnishment of her wages every six months, but this could take a lifetime to pay off.

Notably, Pagones is saying that he might waive interest — a huge amount of money — if Brawley “fesses up.”

I must confess that I have little sympathy for Brawley or the others. I feel sorry for 28-year-old Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr., who committed suicide a week after the false charges were made against him, as well as the rest of these men who were demonized in the relentless press conferences and marches by Sharpton and others.

Media reports stated that Brawley filed a brief on July 22d through Maddox, who has also resurfaced. According to reports, the brief states that she would not appear in court because the court “inferentially sympathizes with the Confederate States of America, would be contrary to the US Constitution and would amount to a ‘badge of slavery.’” That sounds like Maddox who is quoted as saying “The common law applies to whites . . . The slave code still applies to blacks.”

If true, that filing by Brawley (now Tawana Vacenia Thompson Gutierrez) would seem to guarantee that she will face garnishment for the rest of her life. While she may believe bizarrely that Virginia courts are still agents or sympathizers of the Confederacy, she will find that her wages will be paid in union scrip. As for Maddox, if he did indeed file such a brief, I am not sure of his status as an attorney or his ability to file papers in Virginia since some articles refer to him as disbarred. If he is a bar member and filed such statements, his professional status could be subject to a review if he files frivolous or meritless claims.

A graduate of Boston College of Law, In 1990, Maddox was indefinitely suspended by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn after failing to appear before a disciplinary hearing to answer allegations regarding his conduct in the Brawley case.[10]

In 1996, Maddox was ordered to pay New York State legal costs for filing a false complaint of racial bias. In 1997, Maddox and his group, the United African Movement, were fined $10,000 by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights for denying a white teacher access to a speech by Cornel West on the basis of her race. In a letter on a group’s website, Maddox chastised an individual for suggesting that he was disbarred:

I am still licensed to practice law even though New York falsely represented to the federal court in Maddox v. Prudenti et. al. that I had been “disbarred”. Your office made false statements to the federal court. My federal complaint only alleged that I had been suspended from the practice of law. There is a substantial, legal difference between a suspension and a disbarment.

Indeed, there is a difference and one that a few people in Virginia may be exploring at this very moment.

42 thoughts on “Tawana Brawley’s Wages Garnished For Defamation Damages From Infamous Hoax Case”

  1. I realize that I’m kinds late commenting on this article but I recently read about this story and couldn’t believe my eyes. I could’ve sworn I posted a comment on this website but I don’t see it. Anyway, as a black woman, I feel as though Tawana and Al should not only pay back every penny they owe but spend a little time behind bars for telling The Lie Heard Around The World!!

    Young black girls, such as Tawana, hear older black adult females accuse black males of rape all the time. It’s tradition among black females to use rape as an excuse for something. Like Tawana. She lied because she stayed out pass her curfew and was afraid of getting punished, so she remained with her boyfriend and by morning, had concocted this hugh lie about being raped by white men.

    Whether she realized the consquences or not, Tawana knew she was lying about the situation. If it wasn’t for an eyewitness, there’s no telling the outcome. Tawana nor Al haven’t apologized because they could care less about the destructive impact they placed on innocent people’s lives. I pray that Tawana and Al are suffering or will suffer just as much, if not a great deal more, than the REAL victims of this case.

  2. I’m sure this is all over the place by now.


    “Maybe now she’ll really have to sleep in a trash bag.”

    @ Mike A. I get the fact that she was a teenager at the time and was obviously motivated by the malicious racism of the then unknown Al Sharpton. She is no longer an innocent teenager, but a 41 year-old who to this day ” — remains defiantly unapologetic” according to prosecutor Steven Pagones. HE certainly isn’t in it for the money.. he just wants her to come clean, admit the truth about what we all know really happened, and he admits, he’ll dismiss the debt.

    He still doesn’t trust her, however. “Who knows what name she might be using next time, or what Social Security number,” he said. Brawley has used at least two aliases since her flight.”

    And so it goes, she’s off to who knows where, whatever debt she has left obviously can’t be paid if she disappears as well as she had the previous 30+.

    Sharpton on the other hand, is as bad as they come with regard to racism. HE never paid a cent of his portion of the defamation suit either, but some “businessmen” paid it off in 2001? I wonder who ‘owns’ him now. He neither admits the truth nor apologizes for the outcome that it was a hoax. And for HIM, (who I believe was the ringleader who perpetuated this hoax (and I remember most of it except a few sketchy details I’ve learned about since), to gain notoriety as a champion of civil rights to fuel his ongoing racist agenda since then is disgusting. And who in the hell was the idiot at MSNBC who hired him? Frankly, I don’t give a damn. I don’t watch TV, but increased racial tensions have less to do (tho it matters) with what I hear is because he’s got a pal (criminal at best) residing in OUR White House, but more so because Sharpton is the one feeding the flames.

  3. How can anyone take Al Sharpton seriously? He abetted the slander of several very good people to further his own ambition and got away with it. Yet, the media treats him like he’s got something to say. He needs to be called out publicly by every right thinking person. We will never have a sound racial dialogue in this country as long as buffoons like Sharpton have a seat at the table.

    1. Meso:

      Why do I believe your level of forgiveness would be substantially lower or even non-existent if the young lady was Caucasion?

      And how is you advocation of forgiveness consistent with Nurse Tawana’s refusal to apologise? Oh, it’s not? Yeah, right, its not.

  4. War-spite:

    You’re right, of course, all wrongs last forever especially when you do them at age 15 and people can’t change.

    “War-spite.” That’s a good name for you.

    1. I could tell by the heartfelt apology she made some years ago that she clearly was a changed person. Oh, wait, she never did apologise, ever, did she?

  5. If I recall she had written racist sayings all over her body and it was more then just “I was raped”. That is what started the whole brouhaha. It was staged to stir up. Unless someone told her to do what she did she was the inciter.
    I think you’re right Warspite. Maybe if she cam forward and told the truth it would end, for all of them.

  6. It is interesting that only $5000 of the award was compensatory. The court apparently determined that to be an adequate amount to fully compensate Mr. Pagones for the damage it determined Ms. Brawley caused. The remainder was punitive damages.

    1. Yeah, you’re right. It does say something. It says that despite only $5000 in compensatory damages (i.e., lost wages, medical bills, etc.), the conduct was so egregious that a significant award of punitive damages was necessary to make the plaintiff “whole”.

      It was a disgrace when Sharpton wore $1000+ suits on MSNBC during the evening, on the same day he testified under oath at a deposition he owned nothing & had virtually no income. That was really admirable, G-d fearing conduct from the _______.

      As for Nurse Tawana, I hope this guy follows her to the Gates of Perdition to recover every penny, with interest. Anyone who has a problem with that, there is a simple solution: ‘fess up with the truth. Oh no, she can’t do that!

      Lets say the patsy-types are right about her. Ok, so tell. She was young, was scared and was used. She never had anything and suddenly she was important. She didn’t want to lose that. She lied to be liked, to not disappoint people & because she was scared of losing everything she had suddenly received. If she so desires, she can even say no one ever told her to lie, she did it herself. She knew she was lying, and while young & immature, she takes responsibility. Did anyone know she was lying? No, why should they have known. They were only listening to what she was telling them.

      Now, wasn’t that simple? She didn’t give up Al, and if she cries enough people may even believe her & forgive a “poor child who knew no better.”

  7. The moronic statements by Mespo remind me of when I heard younger folks (before having kids) in the Black community suggest the father of Ron Goldman, who was murdered along with O.J.’s ex-wife, “just ought to get over” what happened, rather than pursue a civil case against O.J.

  8. “I feel sorry for 28-year-old Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr., who committed suicide a week after the false charges were made against him, as well as the rest of these men who were demonized in the relentless press conferences and marches by Sharpton and others dmonized….”


    I feel sorry for Harry Crist, too. but his suicide had nothing to do with Tawana Brawley.

    How do we know? That’s what Crist said in his very own suicide note. He was upset about his problems with females, his job at IBM and for not being selected for the state police academy since he failed the test twice. No mention of the implied emotional trauma caused by Tawana.

    Here’s the facts:


  9. Here’s what I said in February and here’s what I still believe:

    I hate to think that my entire life would be judged by my actions as an easily manipulated 15-year-old kid. I think a teenager deserves a second chance and need not bear the stigma of something that happened 25 years ago. Call me a progressive or just someone who has raised kids. Also, as a person raised in Hopewell and with a law office in Bon Air, I feel a certain sympathy for Tawana (call it “geographic affinity”) who it seems wanted out of the limelight and into something more productive. It seems she’s turned her life around since her teenage years given her employment but that apparently counts for nothing.

    Mr. Pagones seems to want to wallow in this tragedy, and that is his right. However my sympathy reservoir for him is quickly ebbing. The only way the public finds out about a person’s residence and employment is if it’s leaked to the press by somebody with a grudge. The other people so affected –like the residents of The Laurels or Tawana’s immediate family — be damned, or so it seems. There’s plenty of recrimination to go around.

    Tell Tawana to give me a call. I’ll refer to a good bankruptcy lawyer and Mr. Pagones can head back on up to New York with his publicity intact and not much else.

    There is a time for things to end. This one should have ended about 25 years ago.

  10. I’m torn on this case due to Brawley being so young and stupid. She seems to have worked to get herself in order and carry on a productive life like the College prof in the thread from a couple of days ago. Reduce the interest.

    The adults on the other hand have no excuse for a lack of due diligence. Rev. Al’s fine should have been humongous.

  11. Wait a second. Does this article say that Maddox went to Boston College’s law school? That is really, really hard to believe.

    One would think its pretty easy to determine whether or not a lawyer has been disbarred. Yes, one would think so. But sometimes it’s more difficult than one might expect. I don’t know the precise status of reciprocity between states on practicing attorneys, but last I looked perhaps half the states would allow an attorney who practiced over a certain number of years in another jurisdiction to “waive in” as a lawyer in another jurisdiction. For a hefty fee, of course. And the annual fees thereafter, of course.

    I think reciprocity amongst different jurisdictions is an excellent idea. At the very least, attorneys who have practiced over a certain number of years (somewhere between 5 and 10) should not have to take another full Bar Exam. Taking just the state portion seems logical. But like anything, there are folks who abuse reciprocity by gaining admission to many different states for no reason other than to put on a letterhead they are admitted in 4 or 5 different jurisdictions. And when an attorney is admitted in a number of different jurisdictions, yet only really practicing (or living) in one, news of the attorney’s disbarment or problems in one jurisdiction may take a while to travel. Who knows- in states with weak or ineffective State Bars, the news may never get to a state as long as the lawyer keeps paying annual dues.

    When I was in the game there seemed to be a particular problem with the D.C. Bar. As I recall, because all things being equal few people would sit for the Bar in D.C. (its like sitting for a Bar to practice in one city. In fact, that’s what it is!), it allowed people to waive into its Bar within 5 years of passing a Bar Exam. I understand that without a policy producing annual dues there would be no D.C. Bar. But, letting attorneys waive into its Bar before they really started to practice could be problematical. There seemed to be periodic episodes of attorneys whom people “sort of thought” had been in trouble and disbarred, but were still running around calling themselves an attorney. And almost invariably admission to the D.C. Bar was involved.

    I wonder if this sort of problem is present with this “attorney” who so brilliantly separates out Slave Law, from the Common Law?

  12. It looks like it was a definitely a civil judgement, and is probably non-dischargeable because Defamation is an intentional tort. Citing from the general information at the legal website below:

    “Section 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code excepts from discharge any debt “for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity.” The legal meaning of the phrase “willful and malicious” has changed over the years and, along with it, so has the breadth of the willful and malicious injury exception.

    From 1904 until 1998, the United States Supreme Court interpreted the willful and malicious injury exception very broadly. To except a debt from discharge under the exception, one only needed to prove that the debtor’s act was intentional and necessarily caused injury. The existence of malice was assumed from the fact that an intentional act caused the injury.

    This changed in 1998, when the Supreme Court decided the case of Kawaahuau v. Geiger. In that case, a doctor treated a patient’s foot infection with oral penicillin instead of intravenous penicillin because oral penicillin was less expensive. A jury awarded the patient a large judgment in a malpractice suit against the doctor and the doctor, who did not have malpractice insurance, declared bankruptcy. The patient sought to have the debt declared nondischargeable under the willful and malicious injury exception.

    The Supreme Court noted that, as used in Section 523(a)(6), the word willful refers to the injury rather than to the act. Therefore, the Court held that the willful and malicious injury exception only applies to intentional injuries that the law calls intentional torts, not reckless or negligent torts, like the doctor’s malpractice.


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  13. Squeaky:

    Certain types of judgments are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Defamation is considered a willful and malicious act and a valid judgment for damages would survive the bankruptcy if the creditor properly challenges its dischargeability.

  14. Squeeky, There are many barristers here so I’ll defer to them. However, I believe a civil judgment that is subsequent to a felony conviction cannot not be discharged by bankruptcy. That is if Brawley was ever convicted. I don’t know and really don’t care enough to research.

  15. Sharpton could step up to the plate and do the right thing…. But he’s too chicken…… S&&t…..

  16. Sharpton’s nothing but a race baiter. I don’t believe any thing he has to say. MSNBC is the perfect place for him along with Chris Mathews

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