In 1987 at the age of 15, Tawana Brawley made national headlines when she accused six white men, some of whom were police officers, of raping her. Backed by Al Sharpton, Attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, the media frenzy surrounding the case was intense and racial tensions were at an all time high in New York City.
But it was all a lie. Brawley wasn’t raped and concocted the story, some say, in fear of the consequences she would have received from her parents after running away.
Now one of her accusers is seeking payback in the form of $190,000 he won in a defamation lawsuit against Brawley.
“For at least 25 years, she has been living a major lie … To me, this has always been about responsibility and accountability,” said former Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones, who was falsely accused of raping Brawley in 1987.
Up until recently, Brawley was nowhere to be found. The New York Post tracked her down in Virginia. After 20 years, and 9% interest, the debt Brawley owes now totals $431,492, according to the wage-garnishment papers filed in Virginia’s Surry County Court. Brawley was found living in Hopewell, Virginia, under the assumed name Tawana Vacenia Thompson Gutierrez and working as a licensed nurse.
Pagones said he might be willing to drop the case if Brawley finally confesses:
“There is a feeling of unfinished business to it,” he said of the case that ended his career and cost him his marriage. I look at this as another opportunity for her to tell the truth. People criticize me for going after a hardworking single mother trying to support herself and child. My argument has been she has not been held accountable. If she is not going to tell the truth, then it is about the money. That is the only way to hold her accountable”