We 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.
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.