After a seven-month investigation, a grand jury formally concluded in a report issued Thursday that Tawana Brawley made up her story of abduction and rape by six white men, possibly to avoid punishment for staying out late.
The Dutchess County grand jury declared that there is no evidence of a cover-up by law enforcement officials in the case, which has received national attention and has heightened racial tensions both in the suburban community where the teen-ager and her family lived and in New York City.
In its 170-page report, the grand jury charged that Brawley’s lawyers and advisers had tried to keep authorities from learning the truth, and it asked the bar association to take action against the attorneys.
The report said that all the items necessary to create the condition in which Brawley was found last Nov. 28 were present inside or near an apartment where witnesses said she apparently had stayed while she was reported missing.
When Brawley, then 15, was found, huddled inside a plastic bag, she was smeared with feces, and racial epithets were scrawled on her body. She told investigators that one of her white assailants had what looked like a police badge.
“Based upon all of the evidence that has been presented, the grand jury concludes that Tawana Brawley was not the victim of a forcible sexual assault by multiple assailants over a four-day period,” the report concluded.
“There is no evidence that any sexual assault occurred . . . . The grand jury further concludes there is nothing in regard to Tawana Brawley’s appearance on Nov. 28 that is inconsistent with this condition having been self-inflicted.”
Case Called Solved
“We have the facts. We have solved the case. The allegations she had made are false,” said special prosecutor Robert Abrams as he released the report.
The grand jury cleared Steven Pagones, an assistant district attorney, who Brawley’s advisers had charged participated in the alleged assault on her. The jurors said they had heard testimony from 13 witnesses who had seen Pagones during the period that the Wappingers Falls, N. Y., high school cheerleader was missing.
The jury found also that the suicide of Harry Crist Jr., a state trooper, had no connection with Brawley’s claims of abduction and rape.
Abrams, New York’s attorney general, who was named a special prosecutor by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, filed a formal complaint Thursday with the State Bar Assn.'s disciplinary committee against Alton H. Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason, the Brawley family’s lawyers. The complaint charged that both lawyers had deliberately made false statements, accused innocent people and counseled their clients to engage in illegal conduct.
Abrams said at a news conference in Poughkeepsie, N. Y., that Brawley’s advisers had “charged the atmosphere with incredible, incendiary remarks and with extraordinary tension.”
The committee, if it agrees with Abrams’ charges, could suspend or disbar both lawyers.
“It would be tragic if this case raises any further barriers to the effective prosecution of racial or sexual violence cases,” Abrams said. “Perhaps the greatest disservice performed by the Brawley family advisers is the reckless manner in which they jeopardized the prospects of future victims of violence to obtain justice.”
Try to Rebut Findings
Brawley’s lawyers and a family adviser, the Rev. Al Sharpton Jr., a preacher without a pulpit, appeared on a New York radio station with a predominantly black audience in an effort to rebut the grand jury’s findings.
“What you heard today from the lips of Robert Abrams was nothing but baldfaced lies,” Mason charged. “We have gone beyond anything that has happened in the South. The legislative, executive and judicial branches of this state are corrupt to the core.”
“They are going to look like fools when Tawana tells her story,” added Sharpton, whose handling of public contributions to Brawley’s cause is under state and federal scrutiny.
Aside from asserting last week that she is not a liar, the teen-ager has said very little and has repeatedly refused to testify before the grand jury.
Brawley’s mother, Glenda, was found in contempt of court for resisting the grand jury’s subpoena and faces a 30-day jail term if she returns to New York. Since the subpoena was issued, the family has moved out of the state.
The grand jury, which was impaneled on Feb. 29, heard more than 6,000 pages of testimony from more than 180 witnesses and received more than 250 pieces of evidence.
“Based on our investigation, the grand jury has found no legally sufficient evidence to charge any person with a crime or to establish that a crime occurred,” the report said.
Friends, Doctors Testify
The jurors heard testimony from friends of Brawley, the physicians and medical personnel who treated her when she was found, technical experts from the FBI and other law enforcement officers.
Brawley, who disappeared on Nov. 24, was found on Nov. 28 behind the apartment her family had recently occupied in Wappingers Falls. She was covered with canine feces and the letters KKK and other racial epithets were scrawled on her body. She said she had been beaten and raped in nearby woods over four days.
But the grand jury said that, when found, Brawley was not malnourished, was not suffering from exposure and apparently had brushed her teeth. She had no injuries, broken bones or bruises other than a slight scratch on her right breast and a quarter-size bruise, which was not tender, behind her right ear.
The grand jury said that Brawley had been seen stepping into the plastic bag in which she was found. She was conscious when she was found.
No Forensic Evidence
Tests at a nearby hospital for rape were negative. “There was no medical or forensic evidence that a sexual assault was committed on Tawana Brawley,” the report concluded. “If a 15-year-old girl had been forcibly raped or sodomized by multiple assailants over a four-day period, there is a high probability that medical or forensic evidence would have been found.”
The grand jury said that during the time she was missing the teen-ager had spent time in the apartment her family had recently vacated and that the denim jacket she wore the day she disappeared was found in the apartment’s washing machine.
The jurors heard testimony that Brawley had stayed late at a party two weeks earlier and was being punished and was not allowed to go out when she ran away from home to visit her boyfriend, who was in jail. The teen-ager, who failed to return home that night, was found four days later--sparking the controversy that continued for almost a year.