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Tawana Brawley begins payments in defamation suit

Cyril Josh Barker | 8/8/2013, 9:19 a.m. | Updated on 8/8/2013, 9:19 a.m.

Tawana Brawley is in the news again as she makes payments for damages from defamation to one of the men that a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., court determined she “falsely accused” of her 1987 rape. So far, she has paid a reported $3,700 of the $430,000.

Reports indicate a Virginia court has ordered that Brawley’s wages be garnished for six months in order to pay the debt, which has gained interest from a 1998 verdict from the defamation lawsuit.

The case stems from the 1987 alleged rape of Brawley, who was 15 at the time. She accused six white men of raping her in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Her body was found naked and covered in feces in a garbage bag with racial slurs written on her.

An upstate grand jury decided that she was not a victim of sexual assault and that Brawley created the appearance of the attack. However, she still maintains that she was the victim of rape. The Rev. Al Sharpton and attorneys C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox were her strongest supporters.

The case is also noted for how the mainstream media handled it. Several news outlets received harsh criticism over leaked photos of Brawley in the hospital and for revealing her name even though she was minor at the time.

The money is being paid to Steven Pagones, who was an assistant district attorney in Dutchess County when he was accused of raping Brawley. He has stated that if Brawley confessed to lying about the incident, he would forgive the debt.

Brawley, now 40, currently works as a nurse in Richmond, Va., at a nursing home. Pagones’ attorney said that Brawley must re-verify that she is still employed. Pagones has to renew his request for wage garnishment every six months according to Virginia law. The garnishment went into effect earlier this year.

“It’s not going to change anybody’s life,” said Pagones’ attorney, Garry Bolnick. “The fact that she is forced to pay something is very important and very symbolic. It would be nice if she would pay off the entire judgment. Obviously, she’s going to make us work for that.”

He added that Sharpton should help Brawley with the debt. Sharpton, Maddox and Mason were all ordered to pay a total of $350,000 in the defamation suit.

Fundraisers have been established to help Brawley pay her debt, including one in May held in New Jersey. Professor and activist Leonard Jeffries hosted the event that was held to help pay Brawley pay her legal costs.

In 2007, 20 years after the incident, Brawley’s mother and stepfather maintained that the incident was not made up. They called on the New York governor and attorney general to reopen the case.

“How could we make this up and take down the state of New York? We’re just regular people,” said Glenda Brawley said. “We should be millionaires.”