Rebuts Report She Made Up Story of Attack by 6 Men : ‘Not a Liar,’ Tawana Brawley Declares
Tawana Brawley told a crowded news conference Wednesday that she is not a liar and did not fabricate her story of being kidnaped and raped last November by six white men, including an assailant with a police-style badge.
“My name is Tawana Brawley and I’m not a liar and I’m not crazy,” Brawley said dramatically. “I simply want justice, and then I want to be left alone.”
The news conference was held in Newark, N. J., because the girl’s mother, Glenda Brawley, faces arrest for criminal contempt of court for defying a grand jury subpoena in New York state.
The teen-ager, speaking softly, read from a statement while supporters shouted encouragement. But, as in previous appearances, the Brawley family’s advisers refused to allow her to answer questions, other than to say that she would be willing to testify before an “impartial” grand jury.
“I have not deceived my family, my advisers and most of all my people,” Brawley, 16, said as her mother and her advisers, lawyers Alton Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason, looked on. “I wish to thank God. He held my hand and he let me live to stop the cover-up once again.”
The scene in the crowded conference room of the downtown hotel provided excellent sound bites for television, but little enlightenment. It was called in rebuttal by the Brawley family after the New York Times reported and officials privately confirmed that a seven-month investigation by a special New York state grand jury had concluded that the 16-year-old former resident of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., had made up a tale of kidnaping and sexual abuse.
During her four-day disappearance, starting Nov. 24, Brawley apparently stayed in an apartment her family had recently vacated, neighbors told the grand jury. The grand jurors also heard evidence the high school cheerleader had smeared herself with dog feces and had written racial epithets on her own body to support her story of abduction.
The principal theory presented to the grand jury was that Brawley had been afraid to go home and face her mother’s live-in companion, who had a violent temper and a criminal record.
The grand jury, according to the New York Times report, was told that her apparent daze after being found had proved ephemeral and that physicians believed she was malingering. Physicians who examined Brawley offered testimony that her actions had not been appropriate for the victim of what normally would have been an extremely traumatic event.
In an editorial Wednesday, the New York Times went further than its news story. “Tawana Brawley is a liar, and Mr. Maddox, Mr. Mason and Mr. Sharpton are charlatans,” the editorial concluded.
After she defied a court order to testify before the grand jury looking into her daughter’s claims, Glenda Brawley took refuge in a series of black churches. She and the family’s advisers traveled to the Democratic convention in Atlanta, where they tried unsuccessfully to bring the teen-ager’s claims before delegates.
The Brawleys then moved to Virginia Beach, Va., but traveled to Newark for Wednesday’s news conference.
Interest was high in the first appearance of Brawley after the derogatory evidence presented to the grand jury was made public. Reporters packed the conference room and the crowd spilled into the hallway. But any thoughts that the teen-ager would tell her story in detail quickly evaporated when she read the statement and refused to respond to questions.
The grand jury, which has been sitting in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., near Wappingers Falls, for seven months, finished its report last week and sent it to a state Supreme Court justice for review before deciding on the form in which it will be released.
Brawley’s advisers pledged Wednesday that they would try to snarl New York City’s subway system later in the week to press her cause. In the past, such threats have met with a massive police presence.