…but they grind exceedingly fine.
Just recently, post-Zimmerman, I wrote a post about former NY Duchess County DA Pagones and Tawana Brawley’s accusations against him. And although I’m glad to see that Brawley is finally paying, money really doesn’t quite cut it, as Pagones says in the Post article, although it’s a good start.
Why wasn’t Brawley held criminally liable for her lies instead of just civil damages? Her age, I believe: she was fifteen at the time. If she’d been older, I believe she could have been charged with filing a false police report—which can be a felony if the charges were bad enough, which they certainly were in Brawley’s case.
But even had she been older, it might have been difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brawley had filed a false report. That’s the standard for a criminal as opposed to civil judgment. As for Sharpton and the others, they could just say they were relying on her word, and besides they didn’t file any police report at all. So the only remedy regarding them was the defamation suit which Pagones ended up winning.
Why am I being so harsh on Brawley? Well, the article doesn’t go into the details of what Brawley et al actually alleged about her presumed attackers. Read this is you need a memory refresher:
On November 28, 1987, Tawana Brawley, who had been missing for four days from her home in Wappingers Falls, New York, was found seemingly unconscious and unresponsive, lying in a garbage bag several feet from an apartment where she had once lived. Her clothing was torn and burned, her body smeared with feces. She was taken to the emergency room, where the words “KKK”, “Nigger”, and “Bitch” were discovered written on her torso with a black substance described as charcoal.
A detective from the Sheriff’s Juvenile Aid Bureau, among others, was summoned to interview Brawley, but she remained unresponsive. The family requested a black officer, which the police granted. Brawley, described as having an “extremely spacey” look on her face, communicated with this officer with nods of the head, shrugs of the shoulder, and written notes…Through gestures and writing, however, she indicated she had been raped repeatedly in a wooded area by three white men, at least one of them a police officer…
Brawley provided no names or descriptions of her assailants. She later told others that there had been no rape, only other kinds of sexual abuse. Forensic tests found no evidence that a sexual assault of any kind had occurred. There was no evidence of exposure to elements, which would have been expected in a victim held for several days in the woods at a time when the temperature dropped below freezing at night.
So, how did Pagones come into the picture? How did he get to the point of suing Brawley for defamation if at first she didn’t name or describe her supposed attackers? That came later, after Sharpton et al had jumped on the Brawley bandwagon:
Sharpton, Maddox, and Mason generated a national media sensation. The three claimed officials all the way up to the state government were trying to cover up defendants in the case because they were white. Specifically, they named Steven Pagones, an Assistant District Attorney in Dutchess County, as one of the rapists, and a racist, among other accusations.
There’s more, much more; the whole entry is well worth reading. Here’s a sample of some of the reaction to Brawley even after the hoax had been discovered:
Legal scholar Patricia J. Williams wrote in 1991 that the teenager “has been the victim of some unspeakable crime. No matter how she got there. No matter who did it to her and even if she did it to herself.” These comments aroused controversy as well.
The events were alluded to in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing, in which a scene showed a brick wall bearing the graffiti message “Tawana told the truth”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. In service of a “higher truth.”
Retro Report interviewed Mr. Sharpton and asked whether, 25 years later, he felt that any crime had occurred at all.
“Whatever happened,” he answered, “you’re dealing with a minor who was missing four days. So it’s clear that something wrong happened.”
Remind me again: why is this guy a TV pundit? Sharpton was also found guilty of defamation, but his “supporters” have been paying his bills.