A Detective Story: Tawana Brawley, an open case
Interview with Graham Weatherspoon, Det. NYPD, Ret.
|Graham Weatherspoon (center)|
OTP: What do you know about Tawana Brawley’s life before November, 1987?
GW: I did not know her personally, but I’ve been told she was an excellent student, a cheerleader at her high school where she got eighties and nineties in class, an honor student, a member of a church who sang in the choir, and was a regular, everyday young lady.
She lived in the same area as Steven Pagones, an area that was predominately white, and was evidently used to living well. Her parents were both working, and making a good income. Ralph King, her stepfather, worked for the Shortline Bus Company. There was and there still is, a close bond between them. One of her aunts worked for the State of New York.
OTP: When Ms. Brawley was found, what was her condition?
GW: The Slocum-Willem Ambulance Service, was called by the officer on the scene. Upon their arrival she was found in a garbage bag, clutching the bag up under her chin. The paramedic stated that her eyes were closed and he attempted to get a response from her. He broke an ammonia capsule and fanned it under her nostrils but got no response. Upon further examination they noticed a cotton-like substance in her nostrils as well as in her ears. That material was extracted from those canals. He broke another capsule and placed it under her nose and got a slight movement of her head, not the usual jerk of the head that you would get from inhaling ammonia. This gave an indication that she was far from conscious. Her pupils were dilated. There was no response to light. There are a number of things which could induce such a condition.
OTP: Can you fake dilated pupils?
GW: No, you can’t fake dilation of the pupils. That’s an involuntary response of the eye. The iris of the eye will shut down when exposed to great light. That is why when you come out of a movie theater in the day, your eyes hurt when the light hits before the iris shuts down. This did not happen here. Her pupils were wide open and they did not respond to any light. I’m not a medical expert, but there are only two reasons that I know of that would cause this condition. You would have to be heavily drugged or in a state of shock. It was later determined after doing toxicology on Tawana, that there were no drugs in her system which could have induced such a condition relative to the pupil of the eye failing to constrict, so it had to be as a result of some kind of shock. On a scale of zero to fifteen, with zero being flat-line dead, the paramedics at the scene rated Tawana at three. Her condition was serious. They also realized that she was experiencing some kind of heart failure. She had arrhythmia of the heart, and the heart was not beating normally, so they gave her an injection of a high electrolyte base solution, to stabilize the heart. She also had low alkaline in her blood, which was indicative of having not eaten in some time. Once they felt they could transport her, they got her to Saint Francis Hospital. There they gave her another injection to get the heart normal. She was also noted at the scene to smell of feces. They found “KKK” and “nigger” written on her torso, and feces packed in her hair.
OTP: How was that written on her?
GW: I’ve only seen photos, so I don’t want to say whether it was scratched or what. But from the photos, it seemed to have been written with the feces. There were various marks. The crotch of here pants had been cut out, and there were various markings, and what appeared to be burn marks on the skin.
OTP: Were they burn marks?
GW: I believe it turned out that they were not burn marks. At St. Francis, they were treating her as a homeless person, not as a rape victim. They had no information as such. It is reported in the medical record that she was bathed because of the fecal matter and other material that was on her.
OTP: Did they do a rape kit on her?
GW: A rape kit was done, the Vitullo kit was done, but after she had been bathed. The one thing that you don’t do with a rape victim is bathe the victim. One might say that they should have known better, but personally, if you brought a person to me in a hospital and they’re packed with feces, one might say that maybe the person is mentally ill, but you have to leave the doors open. The KKK written on the body, “Nigger” written, that should have sent alarms off in the minds of the hospital personnel and for the police officer at the scene, that you may be dealing with a bias crime, a racial incident. You have to keep open every possibility.
OTP: So there was a rape kit done. What happened to that?
GW: That rape kit was turned over to officer Brazelli, an arson investigator from the sheriff’s office of Dutchess County, who we have since learned was a good friend of Steven Pagones. Ordinarily the rape kit is sealed by the attending physician at the hospital. The kit would be placed either in a locked refrigerator at the hospital, or the investigator who was handling the case would forward it to the lab. Or there are times when the hospital would transport it themselves, to maintain the medical integrity of the kit. But what happened here was Brazelli held onto that kit for, I believe it was three days, before it was forwarded to the lab for analysis.
OTP: And that had the physical evidence?
GW: Yes. When a rape is committed, there are certain things that we look for as evidence of rape, beyond the verbal proclamation of the victim. The medical personnel would take swabs of the vaginal area; they will take swabs around the pubic area for sweat and other material. The pubic area is combed with a very fine comb. Those hairs are also put into the kit. DNA material can be taken from sweat, semen or hair. Her body had been washed because of the foul odor, so that was one of the problems. In the washing was the destruction of evidence. Can you say it was intentional? No. They are medical personnel; they’re not looking at a potential rape victim, but maybe a mentally ill or homeless person.
OTP: So that was the physical evidence. What about personal statements? Did Ms. Brawley ever make any statements to law enforcement officials?
GW: Yes she did. That night she spoke with the only African American officer working in the county, Tommy Young with the Poughkeepsie Police Department. He was directed to go to the hospital where he met two detectives, who told him, according to his testimony, “She was found walking around in a paper bag in Wappinger Falls.” Now that was erroneous information, but that’s what he was told. He had been called because anytime a white male came near her she cringed and drew back on the gurney. So they figured, well let’s get a black person to speak with her. He went in to speak with Tawana, he said to her, in essence; “I’m here to help you. You’ve got to tell me what happened to you. I can’t help you unless you tell me what happened.” She reached up and grabbed his badge. Her aunt was in the room and she told officer Young to give her his book and a pencil. He gave her the memo book and Tawana wrote with her left hand, “White cop.” She’s right-handed, but there was an I.V. in her arm so she had to use her left hand. Officer Young asked her, “Were you raped?” She said “Yes”. He said, “By who, how many?” She said, “five or six men.” “Do you remember any of them?” She said, “White cop.” She was asked, “How many times were you raped? She said, “Many times.” When Officer Young got that information, he asked her for a description of the male, and she gave a description of this white cop. He then exited the trauma unit to speak to the two detectives. Although officer Young was told five or six men raped this young lady, he only sought the description of one man.
OTP: What was that description?
GW: I think sandy blond hair, moustache about six feet tall. She said he showed a badge and he punched her behind the ear. Officer young never asked her for a description of any of the other men. Never did.
OTP: So he stopped at the white cop. What does he say happened when he went out of the room?
GW: he spoke with the detectives and told them that she said a white cop had raped her along with some other men. But there was never a following question of. “Can you give me a description of another man?”.
OTP: Was that the only statement that she ever made? Did she ever speak to anybody else?
GW: Tommy Young said that was the only information that he got from her.
OTP: Wasn’t she interviewed at her home?
GW: Yes she was. See the interview with Tommy Young was on the 28th of November 1987, the day that she was found. And she was found in the afternoon around 2:00pm. Now on the 30th of November, she was home. In fact the way they sent her home was less than decent. They sent her home in a sheet.
OTP: Didn’t her family or anybody go up to the hospital to get her, to bring her clothes?
GW: She was sent home in a sheet, and I believe she still had some feces and other material in her hair, as I recall from the testimony of the nurses. On the evening of the 30th, Hilda Kolgut of the FBI in the Southern District, working out of Newburgh, went with Marjorie Smith of the Dutchess County District Attorney’s office. Smith is the sex crimes Assistant District Attorney, trained in molestation of children and violation of women. She has also been trained at the college of D.A.’s of the State of New York, and taught sex crime investigation to various D.A.’s around the State. She has also taken some training at Princeton relative to the subject. Senior Assistant District Attorney, an African American, C. Otto Williams, was present as well as a detective from the Dutchess County Sheriff’s office. They went to Tawana’s house in the evening. When they got there, the family members were there, the neighbors were there, members of the NAACP, the Human Rights Commission; there was a bunch of people in the house. They came to interview Tawana to find out what happened and commence an investigation. They knew that she did not want to be near any white men. The person who conducted the interview was the white male detective from the sheriff’s office. He did an excellent job in his interview. His interview consisted of ten or eleven pages of questions and answers. One of the things people say is that Tawana never spoke. Tawana spoke in the hospital, and then she spoke to the people there at the house.
OTP: What did she say?
GW: She repeated her statement that five or six white men had attacked her. She was walking home, she got off the Shortline bus, and was walking up the road, it’s a very dark road, a car pulled up, a man got out, showed a badge, it was a police officer, and he grabbed her. She tried to get away; he punched her in the back of the head and threw her in the backseat of the car. There was one other man whose face she didn’t see who was driving the car. She was driven to another location where there were more men. She said that these men raped her repeatedly over a period of time. She was also found to have urine in her mouth at the time that she was found. It’s in the medical reports. It was later determined that she had chlamydia, which is another sexually transmitted disease, which comes as a result of penile penetration. There was a second sexually transmitted disease she had as well. In the medical reports, there is notation of the condition of her pubic area. There was a collection of blood around her pubic area from the constant pounding. As a matter of fact, the doctor who examined her wrote down “Sexual assault” as a possible cause of her condition.
OTP: So her statement to the investigators was buttressed by the doctor’s examination.
GW: Yes. Now she spoke with this detective for about forty-five minutes. She gave verbal answers, which he noted in his report. The sex crimes ADA, Marjorie Smith, only had one or two questions. One, she wanted to know what was the color of the badge that the police officer showed, was it gold or silver, which is a sensible question. The second one was what did it feel like when they urinated in your mouth?
OTP: That was her contribution?
GW: Yes. The detective prepared an ten page report and handed it in to Marjorie Smith the following morning. Marjorie Smith claims that she took no notes, and she felt that the detectives’ work was very exemplary and very thorough. But when Marjorie Smith came to court ten years later, she said that Tawana gave no substantive answers whereby they could conduct an investigation. But she got a ten-page report of questions and answers.
OTP: Now with that ten-page report, if you were an investigator on the case, and you took that report to your supervisor, what would normally happen?
GW: What normally happens in New York City, you did your first DD5, which is the interview of the complainant, and you have noted all of the comments of the victim. From that you have a case to work on.
OTP: What would you do?
GW: If you’re telling me that a police officer raped you, I now have to move on that fact, on the description of the man. I now would be looking for any white male who had sandy blond hair and a moustache as a possible suspect. With the technology we have, you can just punch that into a computer and it’ll give you the photographs of all white male officers with sandy blond hair and moustaches in the police department. Because my next move would be to try and identify this individual.
Realizing that the victim has been traumatized, what I want is to make sure that the victim is stable and able to make the identification. You don’t necessarily rush to do identification the next day. I want to make sure that emotionally and psychologically, my victim is taken care of. It was not at the suggestion of St. Francis Hospital that they seek psychological help for Tawana. It was not at the suggestion of the sex crimes D.A. that they seek psychological help for Tawana. It was at the suggestion of Alton Maddox, her attorney, that she seek psychological help. If Marjorie Smith were credible, if she were credible as an advocate for sex crime victims, that’s one of the first things that she would have done. She also would have gone to the hospital and talked with the medical personnel to find out exactly what her condition was when she was brought in, what evidence and materials do we have. The plastic bag that Tawana was in when she was found never got to the hospital. The bag itself contained evidentiary material.
OTP: Can you get fingerprints off of a plastic bag?
GW: You can get good fingerprints off a plastic bag. That bag never made it to the hospital.
OTP: So now you have the written statements of the victim, you have a rape kit, what happened after that?
GW: There were a number of problems here. Because Tawana was saying that a member of law enforcement raped her, she became a victim a second time. They interviewed her on the 30th of November. On the first, of December, the detective submits his report on the interview. No steps are taken by the District Attorney’s office or the sheriff’s office to secure all of the possible evidence. On the second of December, three days following the initial interview, a part-time police officer from Fishkill named Harry Crist, is found dead in his apartment. This is interesting because of the testimony of mailman Tim Losee. Mailman Losee recalled seeing a car, which looked like an old police cruiser, roaming around the area of the Pavillion Complex, with four white males in it, one of which looked very close to Scott Patterson.
OTP: How did he know it looked like Patterson?
GW: What happened was that he noticed the car cruising the area very slowly, as though these guys were looking for somebody. He looked at the vehicle, the number of men in it, and the driver. He later saw a picture of Scott Patterson in the newspaper and realized he looked like the driver of the car.
OTP: He noticed them because of the way they were driving?
GW: Right. They weren’t just driving. They were creeping through the area. He said it was either the 28th or the 29th that he saw this car. Now Tawana was found on the 28th. The description of the car that Tim Losee the mailman gave, matched that of the car that was owned by Harry Crist. Now, Pagones testified that he and the guys were in Danbury, Connecticut that day.
OTP: Four guys in the same car?
GW: In the same car. Losee said he had given the description of Harry Crist’s car to DA Grady and he also made statement to the New York State Police. Grady realized after hearing this, that there had to be a connection between Pagones, Crist and the others relative to the placement of Tawana’s body. You see, Tim Losee did not come forward until after the Grand Jury report had been written.
OTP: Why not?
GW: Mr. Losee wanted to see how this investigation would go. And when the official report came out, he realized it was not on the up and up. This is a white male who had nothing to gain by going along with the program on behalf of Tawana, but he realized that something was awry relative to the investigation, he had information and was willing to give it but it was not called for.
So Harry Crist wound up dead three days after a car just like his was seen near where Tawana was found. All of the authorities said he committed suicide. The State Police said he committed suicide, the District Attorney said he committed suicide, and of course the media reported that he committed suicide. Tawana happened to see Harry Crist’s photo in a newspaper or magazine, and stated “That was the cop that stopped me.”
OTP: Who did she say that to?
GW: She said that to her parents.
OTP: Who did the parents tell that to?
GW: All the proper authorities, the DA, the FBI, everybody.
OTP: Harry Crist is found dead. If you’re an investigator, and the victim says, “That’s the guy,” wouldn’t you investigate that guy?
GW: Definitely. You see one of the funny things is that Steven Pagones said that he was with Harry Crist the night before he died. Independent of the investigation, this is a statement he made. The night before Crist died, Scott Patterson also said he was with Harry Crist, in Harry’s apartment, lifting weights. He said he had left his wedding band in Harry’s apartment. He had taken it off so it wouldn’t dent on the iron. He had forgotten about it, gone home, and went back to get it the next morning. He had a key to Harry’s apartment. Harry’s aunt lives downstairs. She said she never heard a shot. But Harry is dead in his apartment from what they said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Meanwhile, when it comes over the radio that a police officer has been found dead, apparent suicide, Steven Pagones says, that he was in the Fishkill State Police barracks, working on a forgery case and he was talking to the trooper involved in the case. When asked who the trooper was he doesn’t recall. When asked who the judge was who had the case, he doesn’t remember. When asked who the defendant was in the case, he doesn’t remember. But he said he was there when the call came in and he inquired, “Who’s the cop?” They said, “A guy named Crist.” He said, “That’s my friend.” The fact is, Harry and Steve were not close friends, they were more like acquaintances. The irony is that just a few days prior to Crist’s death, he had pulled a gun on Steven Pagones and threatened to shoot him.
OTP: Where does that come from?
GW: From Steven’s own mouth. They had gone to Danbury, Connecticut to quote, “Do some shopping for their girlfriends for Christmas.”
OTP: Now Tawana was found on the 28th. When did they say they were in Danbury?
GW: The 28th.
OTP: The three of them?
GW: Yes. Crist, Pagones, Patterson and Branson.
OTP: Four grown men?
GW: Four grown men.
OTP: They went shopping together at the mall?
GW: At the mall, buying gifts for their girlfriends.
OTP: Did they have receipts?
GW: Steven Pagones presented what he said was a receipt for a sweater that Harry Crist bought. Firstly, what’s he doing with Harry Crist’s receipt? Second, these receipts were not computer generated. They weren’t printout receipts. All of his stuff was handwritten. Do you think, at a major mall, you would be getting handwritten receipts, even in 1987? And this receipt is supposed to have come from a store owned by a close friend of his fathers’. Steve didn’t produce a receipt for anything he bought.
OTP: Did the other guys have receipts?
GW: None of the other guys would come in. All of his alibi witnesses refused to come in. Steven also testified that Harry asked him, about eleven thirty, “Hey, did you hear about the girl they found in a bag of shit?” Now Tawana was not found until after two o’clock. But Steven says that Harry is talking about this around eleven thirty.
Steven said he said, “What girl in a bag of shit?” And Harry said, “Well, never mind, forget about it.”
OTP: What about Harry Crist and this suicide? I know there were no powder stains on his hands, but what other things came out in the trial about this?
GW: Well what they called the suicide note had no fingerprints of Harry Crist on it.
OTP: Did it have any fingerprints on it?
GW: Scott Patterson’s.
OTP: Oh really?
GW: This is what we got from the investigation. Scott Patterson is reported to have found the suicide note, which was really a letter to Harry’s girlfriend. Not a suicide note, just a letter.
OTP: Just a letter. There was nothing that characterized it as a suicide note?
GW: Right. If this were a suicide note, why would not Dennis Vacco release that note so that the jury could see this note relative to this purported suicide? What happened here is that Harry Crist’s body was removed from the crime scene, transported for autopsy. The medical examiner of Dutchess County is not a pathologist and cannot perform an autopsy. But he has the position. So they had to hire a pathologist and they told him that Crist committed suicide. When I’ve had dead body, a homicide or whatever, and I go to the autopsy, I have to give certain information to the pathologist performing the autopsy. The doctor will tell you, “Yeah the guys dead, he’s been shot.” But there’s more to it than that. If you’re telling me this is a suicide, there has to be evidence supporting that. They brought no crime scene photos; they brought no weapon, just a body. They didn’t even bring what they call the suicide note. They just said it’s a suicide, here’s the body.
OTP: Now in a suicide, I would imagine that the weapon would be found still clutched firmly in the hand, or certainly in the area.
GW: The weapon would not be clutched in the hand. You see, Harry Crist was shot through the lower jaw. He had a lateral abrasion running from the left to the right side of the jaw. It was fresh abrasion. Bright red. He had a second one on his right breast about three inches above his nipple. Those were fresh bruises. They were not black and blue. They were fresh, bright red. The capillaries were standing out. In that lateral abrasion under his jaw, right in the middle of it, is a gunshot wound. That’s where the bullet enters. When I examined those two autopsy photos, and even the photo of his brain after it had been removed, I said to Alton Maddox, “This is not a suicide.” It’s death by gunshot, but it’s not a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died during the course of a struggle. The barrel of the gun dragging across his jaw caused the mark on the jaw. You’re struggling with someone with a gun; it drags across your jaw and then, boom. Now, I would be looking for the angle of trajectory of the bullet through the brain. When you take a weapon and turn it on yourself, you can only rotate your wrist but so far. If you’re left handed or right handed. This bullet went right through the mid brain. The likelihood of you being able to point a gun directly up is low. It’s going to go at an angle. He was shot with a semi-jacketed soft-nose round, which we believe is a .357. Harry Crist did not own a .357. None of the men that I’ve worked with who have committed suicide went out and bought a gun to commit suicide with. They used the one they had. But we do know for a fact that Scott Patterson owned a .357 magnum, because he was a State Trooper. That was the standard weapon. Semi-jacketed, soft lead ammunition.
OTP: Where’s the bullet?
GW: The bullet was extracted from the rear of the cranium. It fractured the rear of the skull. They said they didn’t have the weapon. Then sometime later they said they found the weapon. How could you not find the weapon? Does a man commit suicide and take the weapon with him?
OTP: Did anybody investigate this “suicide”?
OTP: Who are these guys. You talk about Pagones, Patterson, and Crist. Who are they in the police department, the county?
GW: Scott Patterson was a state trooper whose father was a colonel in the New York State Police. He was one of the highest-ranking officials in the New York State Police, and he oversaw that area of the state as well. As a matter of fact, today, Scott Patterson sits at the right hand of God. He is a bodyguard for George Pataki.
OTP: Scott Patterson is a bodyguard of Governor Pataki?
GW: Yes. And he said that under no circumstances would he appear in court to testify in this trial. Now this is a servant of the people of New York saying you can take that subpoena and shove it. I will not show up in court.
OTP: What about Pagones?
GW: Pagones at the time was a young Assistant District Attorney. He had been working for the D.A.’s office for about a year-and-a-half, covering various courts around the county.
OTP: What about his family?
GW: Well to do, silver spoon. His father was a judge. His uncle was a housing court judge.
OTP: So these were certainly well connected young men. What about Harry Crist?
GW: Harry Crist was a regular Joe. He didn’t have the panache that Pagones or Patterson had. He was a part-time police officer in Fishkill. He was just hanging out with the big guys. Steven had told his supervisors that Harry had pulled a gun on him November 28 during their Danbury trip.
OTP: Are you serious? When did he say this?
GW: He said this in the current trial. Now this was the same day Tawana was found but there was no investigation. He told DA Grady about it but there was never an arrest relative to the menacing with a weapon; nothing at all became of it.
OTP: At what point in this investigation, if you were investigating this, going by Tawana’s statements and the physical evidence, the death of Harry Crist, at what point would you say, “I’ve got to ring somebody’s bell.” At what point would you start looking for people?
GW: Way back in December of 1987. Not in 1998. First of all, this case should have gone to the Southern District as a civil right violation. It’s ironic, because in the Dutchess County District Attorney’s office, the chief Assistant DA William O’Neill is a former FBI agent who handled civil rights cases back in North Carolina in the 1960’s. So he knows what constitutes a civil rights violation. When this case came into that office, it should have been immediately apparent to William O’Neill that this was a Federal crime. It was a bias crime. It was a case that should have been given to the Federal authorities. As I mentioned before, we did have an FBI agent, Hilda Kolgut, present at the interview at Tawana’s house. But It turns out Hilda Kolgut was a very close friend of Steven Pagones, and had been for a number of years. She knew him, knew his fiancee, had been to his house, they had gone to various social functions together. A problem further existed in the fact that when Steven Pagones’ name came up in the case, this caused a conflict of interest on the Federal level. Fact: no agent can, shall, or will, conduct an investigation relative to a target that they have a relationship with. Major conflict of interest. How thoroughly can you investigate a good friend? But she (agent Kolgut) would have the jury believe that her integrity is that great that she would do whatever had to be done to conduct a proper investigation relative to Steven Pagones. She also went as far as to say that she mentioned to her supervisor that she and Steven were good friends and her supervisor did not pull her off the case. That has to be a lie. The supervisor would be putting himself and the Bureau in jeopardy. The integrity of the Bureau would be challenged from every direction. And I don’t think that the National Director would appreciate knowing that one of his agents was conducting an investigation of a friend in a matter as egregious as this, with the permission of a supervisor.
OTP: Alton Maddox made a statement that the jury said was NOT defamatory. He said, “He was one of the attackers, yes. If I didn’t have direct evidence I wouldn’t be sitting here saying that.” What evidence did he have that would cause the jury to say that was not defamatory?
GW: Steven Pagones said he was with Harry Crist various days relative to the abduction of Tawana Brawley. He said he had gone with Harry Crist on the 28th of November, to Danbury, Connecticut and they had spent the entire day together. He chronicles hours that he was with Harry Crist. And if he was with Harry Crist, he had to be involved in the abduction of Tawana Brawley.
GW: Because of the time sequence. Steven Pagones was setting up an alibi before anybody started to ask him about it. If a man is dead, and you say you were with this man on such and such a date, at such and such a time, and the victim sees a picture of this dead man and says, “That’s the man who did it.” And you’re saying you were with him at that time, then there’s a problem here.
OTP: You’re saying you were with the guy and she says that WAS the guy.
GW: So who’s the fool? Who is the fool? The sheriffs’ office of Dutchess County had Steven Pagones as a suspect early on in this case. Before Alton Maddox got involved in the case.
OTP: Who made him a suspect?
GW: Steven Pagones, at the time of Harry Crist’s death, talked with the New York State Police. And made some statements, which he has refused to release to this court, or the grand jury, or anybody. And if that statement were not incriminating, he wouldn’t have a problem releasing the statement. He refused to take a polygraph under any circumstances. He refused to be interviewed by the FBI under any circumstances. He went out and handed $20,000 to an attorney that he said was a spokesperson, because he knew that Mason, Maddox and Sharpton were going to be coming after him. And this was before they got involved in the case.
OTP: They hadn’t even gotten involved at that point?
GW: Precisely. Now why would you retain an attorney, who you call a spokesperson? Why would you hand a man $20,000 to be your spokesperson? For what? Steven Pagones wasn’t involved in anything he needed a spokesperson for. He wasn’t handling a felony case. He wasn’t doing much of anything in the Dutchess County District Attorney’s office that we can show. As a matter of fact, on the days that Tawana was missing, Steven Pagones, was not even at work.
OTP: He was not at work?
GW: He was not at work. He appeared for two minutes to pick up a paycheck. Two minutes. And at that, he even lied about the deposit of that paycheck. He said that he had his wife Nikki deposit his check and that was a bald-faced lie. Because Steven Pagones’ annual salary in 1987 as a fledgling in the District Attorney’s office, his salary was $25,000. The check that he purports to have deposited in the bank, and he brought in quote /unquote “the deposit slip”. The check was for $1,700. Now if you multiply $1,700 by twenty six, you come up with $46,000 some odd dollars. And this is after taxes. His annual salary was only $25,000. There’s no way in the world that he could have deposited a paycheck for $1,700. Neither he nor Nikki.
OTP: Another question the jury did not find defamatory was when C. Vernon Mason said, “What we have here is an official, an officially sanctioned conspiracy to obstruct and prevent justice in the case of Tawana Brawley.” What evidence did C. Vernon Mason have such that the jury would not find that statement reckless and defamatory?
GW: Well, the fact that the autopsy report determined that Harry Crist was not a victim of a suicide, but of a gunshot wound that was not self-inflicted. Secondly, the fact that neither the District Attorney, or any of his assistants ever went to the hospital and got the medical records, or read them to determine whether or not there was any credibility to Tawana’s allegation. The sheriff’s department never pursued any other information relative to the suspects other than, “white cop”, sandy blond hair with moustache. The fact that when the District Attorney sought to recuse himself of the case, he stated “a conflict-of-interest.” That conflict-of-interest was identified by Judge Judith Hillery of Dutchess County as Steven A. Pagones.
OTP: This was before Mason, Maddox and Sharpton got involved?
GW: Most certainly. Justice Hillery reported it. The New York Times printed it. Newsday printed it.
OTP: That Pagones was a suspect?
GW: That’s right. When the Governor appointed Robert Abrams as a special prosecutor, it was seen as a problem, in that Robert Abrams had no experience as a criminal investigator. He was only a civil attorney. How thorough an investigation could be done here? And that’s not saying the Attorney General does any personal investigating, but he ought to be able to oversee it and be able to recognize any errors he sees in the investigation. When I worked on cases, my sergeant, my lieutenant and my commanding officer, captain, inspector, whoever it was, they read my case folder. If there was anything that I failed to do in the course of that investigation, they were supposed to bring it to my attention. You can’t bring to the attention of an investigator his failure to do one thing or the other, or note an impropriety, if you don’t know anything about criminal investigations. You can’t guide people to a place you’ve never been.
Ralph King and his family initially cooperated. Then they realized that the information that they were giving to the authorities was winding up in the hands of other people. And it was at that point that Alton Maddox suggested that they cease any cooperation with the people, because they were facilitating the position for the opposing side. It was a week before Marjorie Smith even got back to Tawana Brawley. More than a week. Marjorie Smith is a sex crimes Assistant District Attorney. She is the State advocate for this child.
OTP: After her first interview, she didn’t speak to her for a week? What happened? Did anybody speak with her during that week?
OTP: Were they all busily doing something on the case?
GW: They were busy doing something. Look, Tawana had indicated that she had difficulty walking, they said she was feigning it. But the psychologist also felt that it was due to the sexual assault, a posttraumatic shock syndrome that she was going through. They tried to say that she was trying to fake illness and that other people had seen her walking with a cane, without a cane. Or she was seen walking into the treatment center without it, and then complaining that she couldn’t walk once she got in. The reality is, it takes about five years for a woman to get over a rape, if she’s lucky. There are many physical, physiological, psychological, that affect a woman. Rape is the only crime that is committed within the human body. And your threat level is extremely high in rape. The only thing worse than rape is homicide. But in that instance, the victim is gone. In a rape, a person comes to you, sexually penetrates your body, does all sorts of demeaning things to you, well that’s the ultimate trauma that you can go through as a victim of a crime. That experience is long affecting. Long affecting. And it might have a different affect on a young girl than an older woman.
OTP: Have you ever investigated a rape where the victim did not testify? How does that work? Does the victim have to testify?
GW: It can be very difficult for the victim, because the victim is put on trial. The attitude of, “Well she was asking for it.” “Look at what she was wearing. “Do you normally walk around looking promiscuous?” “How sexually active are you?” For an example, Tawana was a fifteen-year-old. They tried to say that she was a prostitute in Newburgh. They had nothing to substantiate that. The people in Newburgh didn’t even know her. None of the people on the street could say they ever saw her or knew her. That was investigated. There was a fellow who said he had all these tapes. A bunch of tapes that he had to expose this scandal, or “Hoax”. And when he brought them in, it turned out all of his tapes were blank. He had tapes to “expose” Sharpton and Maddox and Mason and Tawana. All blank. And you know who produced that witness? Rudy Giuliani.
OTP: Not our esteemed Mayor? I can’t believe this. Explain about those tapes again.
GW: The fellow said he had tapes to expose this conspiracy of Tawana, her family, Sharpton and the others, that there was no rape. But when it came down to the bottom line, his tapes were blank.
OTP: And this witness came from Giuliani. He was the one who said, “I have this witness.”
OTP: So when he puts in the paper that he congratulates Pagones on his “victory”, he’s not exactly disinterested?
GW: No, he’s not.
OTP: Another statement that the jury did not find reckless or defamatory: “Plaintiff claims that the defendant Rev. Al Sharpton on or about June 10, 1988 at the Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, made the following statement: “By law, they could have required Mr. Pagones to come in front of this Grand Jury months ago and waive immunity since he was a public official. They gave him all of this time to fabricate alibi witnesses.” What evidence did Sharpton have to make that statement?
GW: Edwin Garcia, the former New York State Trooper who worked out of Poughkeepsie at the time of the incident, was a very close friend to Steven Pagones. He stated on the stand that he taught Steven how to shoot and went with him when he purchased his first firearm. And that he would do anything for Steve. He protected him; he was his bodyguard. One would have to ask, “Why would a twenty-five-year-old Assistant District Attorney, need a bodyguard. And he’s not even investigating organized crime, white collar crime, or any major corruption in the County.” Why would he need a bodyguard?
OTP: Yeah why would he need a bodyguard?
GW: The authorities had various agencies apparently working on this case. There was the Dutchess County Sheriff’s department, the FBI, the New York State Police, the District Attorney’s office. Edward covered the New York State Police. He stated, “Any information that was gathered by us, I made sure Steve got a copy of it.”
OTP: Is that right?
GW: He further went on to say, “Steven introduced me to a woman who he said was his cousin. She was an FBI agent. And she was in the Grand Jury, giving him all the information in the Grand Jury.” Edward Garcia testified to this in open court, prior to Hilda Kolgut, FBI agent, arriving in court. He also stated in sworn testimony, that Steven Pagones was stalking Reverend Sharpton. And on one occasion, Steven wanted him to go with him and the FBI agent to New York City to check out Sharpton, and that they wear disguises.
OTP: Did they go? They actually went to New York?
GW: He testified he was trying to figure out which guns they should take in case things got kind of hot. But then he thought more about it and did not go that day, but Steve and the FBI agent went. Wearing disguises. So they were stalking Al Sharpton at that time. So we have Garcia providing Steven with information, and he testified that Hilda Kolgut was providing information. When Hilda Kolgut finally appeared in court, she appears with a Deputy U.S. Attorney from the Southern District, whose role is to object and intervene relative to any question that is put to her that they don’t think that we should know about. Like this is some Top-Secret case. Hilda Kolgut said, “Well, I only said to Steven, ‘This is what they’re saying about you in the papers.’” As a Federal Agent she was only talking about what was in the papers? He didn’t need her to give him that information, he could read that himself. She also stated that she was a long-time friend of Steven’s, been to his house, knew his fiancee’, had dinner with them. She went to talk to him about the case. He refused to talk officially to the FBI. He refused to take a polygraph, she told him that he had to give an interview or the gloves would come off. I guess the kid gloves were glued on, because they have not come off as yet. In fact Assistant District Attorney O’Neill was asked, “Did you ever confront Steven and ask if he was involved in this matter?” O’Neill said, “No, I did not.” “Why didn’t you?” He said, “I knew what the answer would be.”
OTP: Meaning what?
GW: He didn’t even want to get into that.
OTP: He knew better.
GW: Exactly. If the DA is going to seek to recuse himself, let somebody else deal with it.
OTP: But even given all of this, the Grand Jury Report “exonerates” Mr. Pagones. How did that come to pass?
GW: (Reading from dictionary) Exonerate means, “To free from responsibility, obligation or task. To free from burden.” A Grand Jury does not free anybody from responsibility or a task. A Grand Jury has one sole purpose, to determine whether or not there is enough evidentiary material to proceed with a trial. The Grand Jury does not exonerate. Only a trial by jury can exonerate. That decision is called, “Not Guilty” or an acquittal. When the Grand Jury votes “No True Bill”, which they voted on Steven, it doesn’t mean they exonerate him. It means we don’t have enough to go on.
OTP: I see.
GW: It means you haven’t given us enough information to make a wise determination. That could mean go back and do your homework. That did not happen. Steven Pagones is not exonerated even in the civil trial, because the civil trial is not dealing with criminality. It’s not dealing with kidnapping, abduction, unlawful imprisonment, assault, rape or sodomy. The civil trial was dealing with statements. It’s dealing with oral statements and whether or not they were made maliciously, libelously, or in a slanderous manner. In order for Steven Pagones to present a case, as a public official, the law states that the public official is to be held to a higher standard that the person on the street. In order for you to prove lying, slander or malice as a public official, you first of all have to be squeaky clean, not slipshod. If Steven Pagones was squeaky clean, he would not have been identified as a suspect by the FBI, the Sheriff’s department or judge Judith Hillary.
OTP: Since he was thought of as a suspect, what kind of investigation did they do? How was he turned into not a suspect? Was it the Grand Jury Report?
GW: The Grand Jury, put together by Abrams, is a group of twenty-odd people who know nothing about law, criminal investigation, forensic science, nothing for the most part. They’re put into a room with a couple of guys with suits and ties saying, “I’m the Attorney General of the State of New York, and this is the Special Prosecutor. They come in there and say there are certain facts and evidence that we want to present to you, and you will determine whether to indict or not. Depending on how the prosecutor presents that case, the jury is going to go one way or the other. A Grand Jury is a unilateral presentation. It’s only the way the presenter wants you to see it. It’s not predicated on truth. It’s predicated on what the presenter wants you to believe. In a trial you have two sides to present. That doesn’t exist in a Grand Jury, you only vote with what you’re given. So what was the Grand Jury given? They’re given Michael Baden, the man who said that the Kennedy assassination was the work of a lone gunman. Nobody believed that in 1963.
OTP: He was the same pathologist? What else did he do?
GW: Martin Luther King and O.J. Simpson for two others. See, Michael Baden, who was the medical examiner for New York City, was fired by Ed Koch in 1985. He surfaces some time later as the pathologist for the New York State Police. The Attorney General is also Counsel to the New York State Police. Scott Patterson is also a suspect in this matter, and Scott’s father is one of the heads of the State Police. So he’s right there next to the Attorney General. So if Scotty is involved in something and daddy is right next to the Attorney General, you’d better believe that “the right thing” is going to be done.
OTP: So the Attorney General presented a case that was not strong enough for the Grand Jury to hand down an indictment.
GW: Precisely. First of all, Michael Baden never met or examined Tawana Brawley. What he said was that the DA had certain people saying they saw Tawana jumping around in the bag, hopping around in the bag, doing all sorts of stuff. Michael Baden, said in effect, if she was doing that, then the paramedics report has to be bogus. She could not have been unconscious, her pupils could not have been dilated.
OTP: He just discounted the paramedics report?
GW: That’s right. So now we have to say to ourselves, this fifteen year old girl concocted her story and got some paramedics to go along with her. Then she goes into St. Francis Hospital where her blood pressure was nowhere near normal. And she also would have had to pay the nurses to enter into the medical record her condition. She must have paid them BIG money to enter false information into medical records because falsifying medical records is a state offense for which you will do time. So she’s got the nurses who have never seen her before, they’re willing to falsify the records to say she’s ill, she’s all messed up, and then she’s going to allege that the man she sees in the newspaper (Harry Crist) is the man that initially confronted and assaulted her. She’s just going to make that up, not knowing where the man might have been, he may have been with the President of the United States the night she claims that she was raped. Then you have Steven Pagones, saying out of his own mouth that he was with Harry Crist on this date and that date. Well if you were with him on this date and that date, then dammit you had to be involved in the rape. That’s how he brings attention to himself.
OTP: When Pagones said he was with Harry Crist, was he speaking in regard to the so-called suicide, or to the rape?
OTP: The rape. He says that he went with Harry, Branson and Patterson to Danbury, the day that Tawana was found. He was using Harry Crist as his alibi, because Harry’s a dead man. If you’re using a dead man, there’s no one to refute your alibi.
OTP: Did Pagones’ statement come before or after Tawana had identified Harry Crist?
GW: I think it’s after. Look, to this date, we don’t know who wrote the Grand Jury Report. Why would you bring in Michael Baden to testify to the medical evidence. Did they bring in the ambulance driver, the paramedics that were there? The nurses came into the trial, ten years later, and said that she was faking.
OTP: Which contradicts what is in the record.
GW: Sure, contradicts the record. The record was never presented.
OTP: So instead of presenting the record itself, they presented Baden’s report on the record.
GW: Right. The Grand Jury is handed this bag of goodies which they accept as truth and the Grand Jury reports no true bill. Then the word is put out that Pagones is cleared. See the White man is good at perpetuating his myths. Ask the Seminole, ask the Apache.
OTP: White man speaks with forked tongue?
GW: If the shoe fits…Look, Pagones had none of his alibi witnesses come in. Not even his wife came in to say, “Yes, I took that money to the bank to make a deposit. His wife showed up the last four days of the trial. His own father who he said he was with Thanksgiving night at a get together at the father’s place, doesn’t come and take the stand to swear that they were together.
OTP: So what happens now?
GW: It took thirty years to finally get Beckworth for murdering Medgar Evers. The last DD5 has not been turned in on this case.
There is a level of persistence that goes with the search for truth. Myrlie Evers had to continue her search for justice, despite the findings of juries…well, the last word is not in yet here either. Truth crushed to earth will rise. There has not yet been an investigation in this matter. The media wants to push the facts out of the picture, but this trial does not exonerate Pagones. We have yet to see the end of this case.