Date: Sat, 13 Dec 97 21:26:24 CST
From: Workers World <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Tawana Brawley speaks out
Article: 23962

Tawana Brawley speaks out

By Pat Chin, Workers World, 18 December 1997

Brooklyn, N.Y.—Tawana Brawley ended a 10-year silence about her case Dec. 2, when she spoke to a packed house of cheering supporters. The event was held in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, which is overwhelmingly African American and poor.

Addressing over 800 people at the Bethany Baptist Church, Brawley asserted in a fiery speech, I am not a liar, nor am I crazy. The 25-year-old African American woman was referring to charges she made 10 years ago that six white men had abducted, raped and tortured her over the course of four days.

Brawley had been found on Nov. 27, 1987, on the side of a highway in upstate Dutchess County, N.Y. Only 16 years old then, she was semi-conscious, half frozen and wrapped in a plastic bag.

Feces were smeared on her face. Racist slurs and KKK had been written on her body.

Brawley said that one of six white men who brutally tortured her had flashed a badge. According to the Feb. 17, 1988, Poughkeepsie Journal, Brawley implicated Dutchess County Sheriff Frederick W. Scoralick. She also reportedly identified Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones as one of the attackers.

However, a 1988 grand jury concluded that Brawley made up the story of being abducted and raped. It also exonerated Pagones and others, calling the incident a hoax.

No testimony was heard from the medics who treated Brawley for her injuries after she was found near death. This and numerous other irregularities led Brawley’s supporters to denounce the grand-jury proceedings as a giant cover-up.


The Dec. 2 Brooklyn rally came on the eve of a slander trial initiated by Pagones against Brawley and her advisers- -Alton Maddox Jr., C. Vernon Mason and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Pa gones is suing the four for $395 million.

The case is being heard by Judge S. Barrett Hickman, a former district attorney in Putnam County, which is near Dutchess County.

Brawley told the Brooklyn meeting that Pagones had offered to end her liability in the case if she would testify against Maddox. Brawley blasted his offer as a payoff.

She told the chanting crowd, There’s not enough money on this planet to make her accept the offer. It’d be like I said it didn’t happen—but it did.

Brawley continued that Maddox has been my attorney for the past 10 years and hopefully he will always be my attorney.

Her voice strong and confident, Brawley criticized the big-business media for vilifying her and her supporters. She explained how difficult that has made life for her and her family over the past 10 years.

She was afraid to speak out before, Brawley said, because I was ashamed of what happened to me and because I was ignorant. I didn’t know the lengths they’d go to—they, the media. But I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.

For 10 years they were lying to you, she added. You should feel that the hoax was pulled on you.

Chants of no justice, no peace soon changed to We love you, Tawana and We believe you, Tawana.

Referring to charges from the racist and sexist capitalist establishment that she and her advisers caused problems with race relations, Brawley retorted: We didn’t cause any ruckus. It was already there. We just woke it up. . . .

What happened to me happens to hundreds of thousands of women. I’m not the first in Dutchess County, and I won’t be the last.

The ruckus referred to was a series of militant protests after the 1987 incident that in fact united a force for justice made up of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, anti- racist whites and activists in the women’s movement. Such unity is one of the ruling class’s worst nightmares.

Tawana is about whether America has the will to put white men in jail for raping Black women, Maddox told the crowd from the podium. Our ability to win in Dutchess Country depends on our degree of unity. If we are united as a people, the truth is on our side and no force on the face of the earth can beat us.

Maddox has been suspended from practicing law because in 1988, charging it was a cover for the good-old-boy network, he advised Brawley not to cooperate with the grand jury.

Mason was later disbarred for supposedly bilking clients.

Sharpton, who came in a strong second in this year’s Democratic primary for New York mayor, is constantly hounded by questions about the Brawley case.

Mason was represented at the rally by his lawyer Stephen C. Jackson. Sharpton also came, but did not speak publicly.

He later told the New York Post: This is going to be a landmark case on advocacy. What’s on trial here is the people’s right to advocate.

The judge has ruled the truth out. We don’t have a right to believe people who come to us.

Demands are being made that the Tawana Brawley case be reopened based on documentary evidence of a racist, sexist cover-up. This, coupled with the solidarity shown at the Dec. 2 rally, gave new weight to a statement made by Maddox at the time the case broke: They don’t understand the whirlwind that is moving towards Dutchess County.