Judge Rules Tawana Brawley Defamed Prosecutor
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) _ A county prosecutor was defamed by a black teen-ager who falsely claimed he was one of six white men who abducted and raped her, a judge ruled.
State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Beisner ruled Tuesday that Tawana Brawley intentially inflicted emotional distress on Steven Pagones, a former assistant district attorney for Dutchess County. In New York, the Supreme Court is a trial-level court.
The ruling was made by default when Miss Brawley failed to respond to the accusations.
Miss Brawley’ attorneys and her adviser claimed Pagones was involved in her adbuction and sexual assault by six white men in November 1987. She was found near her former home in Wappingers Falls, smeared with dog feces and with racial slurs written on her body.
A special grand jury cleared Pagones of any involvement in the Brawley case and concluded that Miss Brawley fabricated the story.
Pagones filed a defamation suit against Miss Brawley and also named attorneys Alton Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who had turned the Brawley case into a symbol of racial injustice.
″We said right along Tawana never had a story to tell, and this just proves it,″ said Pagones, who left his job as an assistant district attorney early last year.
Beisner made his ruling by default because Brawley, now 19 and known by the Muslim name Maryam Muhammad, did not respond to court summonses. A hearing to assess damages will be conducted later.
Maddox, however, said a decision by default was no victory.
″I certainly don’t think Steve Pagones should be gloating. He has not won anything on its merits,″ Maddox said, adding that even if Pagones were awarded money from Brawley, she could not pay.
The case against Maddox, Mason and Sharpton is pending. Miss Brawley could not be reached for comment; a telephone number could not be obtained for Miss Brawley at Howard University in Washington, where she is a student.
In a related ruling Monday, the state Appellate Division said Miss Brawley’s advisers must provide Pagones with information about their defense. Maddox, Mason and Sharpton had appealed Beisner’s order to hand over documents surrounding their case.
″They’re saying (the attack) occurred. We’re saying, ″Tell us when,‴ said Pagones’ attorney Eugene Rizzo.
The decision is important to Pagones’ case because he can now force the three to admit in court they have no evidence of the attack, Rizzo said.