Tawana Brawley is finally paying up in the defamation case against her, 25 years after at age 15, she falsely accused two white men of brutally raping her over four days in New York, inflaming racial tensions and raising the profile of a little-known activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton.
In 1987, Brawley was found disheveled and lying on a plastic bag with feces on her body and the N-word and b--- scrawled on her torso in upstate Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Brawley claimed a white man lured her into the woods, where a gang of other white men repeatedly raped her. In interviews with police, she couldn’t give detailed descriptions of her alleged attackers. But two suspects were later identified: Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr., (Crist committed suicide three days after the alleged attack, but the suicide was attributed to relationship problems) and Dutchess County Prosecutor Steven Pagones.
Brawley’s claims were taken up by two lawyers – C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox -- and Sharpton, who was then a fledgling civil rights activist. A grand jury eventually found that Brawley made up the rape allegations, which led to a defamation suit against the now-41-year-old woman. The grand jury found that Brawley concocted the rape story because she feared being punished by her stepfather for going to a late-night party.
A 1998 ruling ordered that Brawley pay $190,000 to Pagones. Maddox was also ordered to fork over $97,000, Mason was on the hook for $188,000 and Sharpton owed $66,000, but celebrity attorney Johnnie Cochran paid Sharpton’s share.
Brawley, who was lived under aliases in Virginia, has only recently started to pay off the defamation debt to Pagones, according to an exclusive report Monday in the New York Post. Brawley wrote 10 checks totaling roughly $4,000 to Pagones. She owes $431,492 including interest, and at this rate will be paying off Pagones for the rest of her life.
“It’s a long time coming,” Pagones, now 52, told the paper. “Every week, she’ll think of me. And every week, she can think about how she has a way out — she can simply tell the truth.”
Brawley’s defamation payments to Pagones come out to $627 a month, according to the Post. She now works as a nurse and lives in Hopewell, Va., according to the paper.
Pagones said he may be willing to forgive the debt if Brawley will admit that she made up the rape allegations, but she’s hasn’t agreed to do that so far.
“I’m willing to consider anything,” Pagones said.
In June, the New York Times revisited the Tawana Brawley case through archived video and a recent interview with Sharpton, who still maintains that a crime was committed against the 15-year-old.
“Whatever happened, you’re dealing with a minor who’s missing four days, so it’s clear that something wrong happened,” he said in a YouTube video posted by the Times.
Watch the full video below: