Date: Tue, 10 Feb 1998 09:36:20 -0500
Sharpton takes the stand: Rev. backs off heated comments in Brawley case
Associated Press, Philadelphia Daily News, 10 February 1998
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Ten years after accusing a prosecutor of raping , the Rev. Al Sharpton admitted in a $395 million defamation trial yesterday that he never spoke with the teen-ager in any detail about the case.
"In terms of the details, I would not engage in sex talk with a 15-year-old girl," Sharpton testified after being called to account for some of his most fiery accusations during the Brawley affair.
Sharpton was a chief defender of Brawley, a black teen-ager who in 1987 was found smeared with feces and scrawled with racial epithets in the small town of Wappingers Falls.
Brawley claimed she was raped by several white men, including a police officer and a local prosecutor. The case touched off racial protests and led to a huge investigation that ended with a grand jury pronouncing the entire thing a hoax.
During the furor, Sharpton accused prosecutor Steven Pagones of taking part in the alleged attack. Pagones was exonerated in 1988 by the grand jury and is now suing Sharpton and two other former advisers to Brawley, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason.
Sharpton once said he believed Pagones was "absolutely" involved in the attack, but yesterday he couched Pagones' role in softer terms. "I am of the opinion that he was identified and should have been prosecuted," Sharpton said.
Pagones' attorney, William Stanton, challenged Sharpton to tell the jury what information he relied upon before repeatedly naming Pagones. Sharpton testified that he relied on accounts from Brawley's parents. He admitted he never talked to her directly about the details of what happened to her.
In the courtroom, a large-screen television showed videotapes of Sharpton on talk shows, excitedly naming Pagones as an attacker and daring him to sue Maddox, Mason and himself. It was a sharp contrast to the polished witness who wore a tailored pinstripe suit and repeatedly invoked Martin Luther King Jr. when casting himself as a civil-rights hero.
Pagones accused Sharpton of being evasive on the stand. "For 10 years, he has denounced me, he has taunted me," Pagones said during a break. "This is his time to put up or shut up, and he's doing neither."