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The Tawana Brawley Case: TIMELINE From Wappinger’s Falls, NY 1987 to Poughkeepsie, NY 1998

From Wappinger’s Falls, NY 1987 to Poughkeepsie, NY 1998
Nov. 24 State Trooper Scott Patterson and Part-time policeman Harry Crist take
Patterson’s pickup truck to the Newburgh area.
Nov. 24 – Mrs. Buxton, mother of Tawana’s boyfriend, reports that she and Tawana
are followed in Newburgh by two white men in a pickup truck.
Nov. 24 – Patterson, son of the second in command of the New York State Police,
reports that he had driven Crist within a couple of blocks and within 15 minutes
of where and when 15 year old Ketcham High School honors student Tawana Brawley
would have been walking that evening.
Nov. 24 – Tawana Brawley got off a Shortline bus returning from Ms. Buxtons’
house. She later reports that she was kidnapped and raped over a four day
Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones, son of Judge Anthony
Pagones, gave the following as his whereabouts during the kidnapping. He
presented no witnesses to corroborate his story.
Nov. 24 – At work
25 – -At home
26 – Thanksgiving
27 – Family gathering
Nov 28 – Pagones, Part-time Police Officer Harry Crist, State Trooper Scott
Patterson, son of second in command of the New York State Police, and Gene
Branson allegedly drive to Danbury, Conn. mall to shop for their girlfriends
from 11am to 3-4pm. They use Crist’s car, a former police cruiser. Pagones has
testified that at 11:30am Harry Crist asked him, “Did you hear about the girl
they found in the bag of shit?” Pagones has testified that during the ride,
Crist pointed a gun at him and said, “I’ll blow your brains out.”
Nov 28 – Mailman Tim Losee sees a car with four white men driving slowly through
the area where Tawana Brawley was found. The description of the car was, “Like
an old trooper car.” Later he identifies a newspaper photo of Patterson as the
possible driver.
Nov 28 – 2:00pm Tawana Brawley is found near a dumpster in a plastic bag. Deputy
Sheriff Eric Thurston reports Ms. Brawley is half-naked, curled up in a fetal
position and without underwear She is covered with feces and has “KKK nigger
bitch” is written on her torso. The ambulance team finds no dilation of pupils
and no response to ammonia capsules. At St. Francis Hospital, the medical report
revealed masses of hair ripped from her head, she is, “unresponsive,
unconscious, shallow breathing” There is notation of a collection of blood
around her pubic area. It notes that the teenager’s severe injuries were the
result of “probable sexual assault.” Officer Tommy Young, Poughkeepsie’s only
Black cop, interviews Ms. Brawley. When asked to identify her attackers, she
grabs his badge. Later she writes, “white cop”. Sheriff’s office arson
investigator, Detective Brazelli is given the rape kit for transport. He
delivers the kit to the lab three days later. It is later learned that Detective
Brazelli is a friend of Steven Pagones.
Nov 30 – Tawana Brawley is interviewed at her home by Hilda Kolgut of the FBI in
the Southern District and a close friend of Steven Pagones. Other Pagones
associates present for the interview are co-workers Marjorie Smith, sex crimes
Assistant District Attorney from the Dutchess County District Attorney’s office,
and C. Otto Williams, an African American and Senior Assistant District
Attorney. A detective from the Dutchess County Sheriff’s office conducted the
interview. Also present were family members, neighbors, members of the NAACP and
the Human Rights Commission. Tawana describes a white cop with sandy blond hair
and a moustache. The family requests an artist to do a sketch, and pictures of
local police. Both requests were denied.
Dec. 1 – Pagones, Patterson and Crist allegedly spend time together lifting
weights at Crist’s home.
Dec. 1 – 11:00-11:30 Crist is shot dead at his home.
Dec 2 – Body of Police Officer Harry Crist is found by Scott Patterson.
Originally termed a suicide, now acknowledged to be a death by gunshot. There’s
no evidence found indicating a suicide.
Dec. 3 – Pathologist examines Crist’s body. No powder burns on hands. State
Police bring the body with no crime scene photos, no weapon and no “suicide
note.” The pathologist, says, “I can’t say it’s a suicide.” His Autopsy Report
for Crist, describes the body as “that of a young Caucasian male, with
moustache, measuring 70 inches and weighing approximately 190 lbs. The hair is
short, dark brown in color and the eyes are hazel.” The cause of death is listed
as “Massive brain injury and hemorrhage secondary to a single gunshot wound of
the head.” The word “suicide” does not appear anywhere in the report.
The New York State Police and the Press report Crist’s death as a suicide.
Dec. – State Trooper Scott Patterson refuses to answer questions about Crist’s
Dec. 7 – Informant tells Asst. Dist. O’Neill that Crist was a racist, had
problems with women, and that “there was something about how this fellow Scott
Patterson, the trooper, had found Harry Crist and had retained the note for a
longer period of time than he should have. This information was in a
memorandum.” (DA Grady testimony)
Dec. 8 – District Attorney William Grady meets with Steven Pagones who is one of
his Assistant DA’s.
Dec. 12 – Demonstration in Poughkeepsie marks the beginning of The December 12th
Dec. 23 – State Police and Sheriff’s office, w/consent of the District Attorney,
have Tawana’s boyfriend call Tawana and question her about the rape. They record
the conversation. “During the course of that phone call Tawana Brawley was heard
to have stated that the person who did this to her was the white cop who shot
himself in Wappingers.” (DA Grady testimony)
Jan. 6 – Grady begins to present evidence to the grand jury. The Brawleys, who
are being advised by Maddox, refuse to cooperate. Maddox , in receipt of
information that a high official in the D.A.’s office was involved in the
matter, sees a conflict of interest with the local DA’s office, Attorney Maddox
demands that the current District Attorney of Dutchess County, WIlliam Grady,
recuse himself.
Jan. 13 – Mailman Tim Losee is interviewed by ADA William O’Neill. Describes car
with four white men.
Jan. 13 – Attorney Maddox holds press conference and “again reiterated that in
the family’s mind Harry Crist is a suspect who was aperson who should be
pursued, and why weren’t photographs shown to Tawana Brawley?
Jan. 14 – ADA Steven Pagones is interviewed by ADA William O’Neill. O’Neill
describes match of identification of car and occupants. Mr. Pagones claimed to
be in Danbury, Connecticut. He remembers that they were in Danbury because
around 11:30am “Harry asked us about a girl in a bag of feces.” (Approximately
two hours before Tawana was found.)
Jan. 19 – Pagones meets with good friend Hilda Kolgut of the FBI. Says he’s not
talking without a lawyer.
Jan 19 – Newsday publishes story that Reverend Sharpton wore a wire in a past
Jan 20 – Grady withdraws from the case, citing an undisclosed conflict of
Jan. 25 – Judge Judith Hillary writes to Governor Cuomo Aide and names Steven
Pagones as a suspect and cause of a conflict of interest in Dutchess County
District Attorney’s office. Requests State help in appointing a prosecutor
Jan. 27 – Governor Mario Cuomo appoints Attorney General Robert Abrams special
Feb. 11 – Steven Pagones retains a lawyer. Tells his lawyer that he will not
cooperate with the FBI and will not take a polygraph test.
Feb. 17 – Poughkeepsie Journal names Pagones as a suspect.
Feb. 20 – Grady disqualifies citing a conflict of interest.
Feb. 21- Local attorney David Sall appointed as prosecutor. Tells Glenda
Brawley, “I don’t care if you’re white, black or polkadot.”
Feb. 22 – After reviewing the files, David Sall disqualifies himself, saying,
“No one in Dutchess County can prosecute this case.”
Mar. 4 Pagones is examined by a doctor for stress related illness. The doctor’s
records show Pagones reporting he had the condition for the last three months.
Mar. 13 – Alton Maddox, Al Sharpton, C. Vernon Mason hold a press conference.
Maddox made the following statements, “He was one of the attackers, yes. If I
didn’t have direct evidence, I wouldn’t be sitting here saying that.” “We don’t
want to outline to Pagones what evidence we have. He’s still a law enforcement
official and is in the position to retaliate against the family.” And regarding
Harry Crist, “He did not commit suicide, he was murdered.” 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.” All of these
statement were ruled NOT defamatory. At the same press conference, Maddox said,
“Steven Pagones had known the Brawley family for some time. He lived on the same
street as the Brawley family. Less than two years ago. He had eyed Tawana
Brawley before.” He also said, “He (District Attorney Grady) knew one of his
Assistant District Attorneys was involved in the abuse of Tawana Brawley.”
March 14 – FBI contacts Pagones. He refuses cooperation.
Mar. 30 – FBI Threatens Pagones.
Mar. 31 – On the “People Are Talking” talk show broadcast by the WWOR-Television
Network at its studios in New York City, in response to this question by Richard
Bey: “I guess its hard for people to believe that a police officer and an
assistant district attorney would work in coercion together to go out, kidnap a
black teenager and rape her”. Defendant, Rev. Al Sharpton, stated in response:
“We stated openly that Steven Pagones, the Assistant District Attorney did it.
His lawyers say he may or may not sue us. If we’re lying, sue us, so we can go
into Court with you and prove you did it. I’ll use your show to dare them to sue
us – sue us right now. We are saying Steven Pagones did it. Now if Steven
Pagones didn’t do it, why isn’t he suing us?” Jury ruled Defamatory, but that
Sharpton did not know it was false.
April 4 – FBI memorandum re: “Changing the thrust of the investigation.”
April 5 – Pagones visits doctor.
April 15 – Al Sharpton made the following statement: “The point is that we have
named Steven Pagones and others and if Ms. Brawley’s given an impartial
prosecutor, we can put them in jail…The investigation now is on every crack
addict in Newburgh rather than an investigation of the alleged suspect. Most
investigators go after suspects. Why aren’t the investigators looking at Pagones
and the people we’ve named?” Jury Deadlocked on defamation.
June 15 – At the Phil Donohue show broadcast by the NBC and filmed at the
Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, made the following statements: …”of semi-
conscious – with excrement all over her body, with urine in her mouth, cotton in
her nose and in her ears, she said and has proven that six white men, one named
Steven Pagones. I’ll repeat it again, Assistant District Attorney of Dutchess
County, another one, William Patterson, another one, Harry Crist were among
those that attacked her…That the key question Miss – we have said what
happened to Tawana, we said we can prove it, we said we’ve got the evidence. If
they really want to resolve it, call our bluff…Mr. Pagones’ father is a judge
and the head of the Democratic Party in that part of the County. And Mr.
Patterson’s father is the No. 2 man for the New York State Police – he is very
close to the Governor – and these people would rather die than have a black girl
put them in jail. But put them in jail they will. These people will go to jail.”
This was ruled defamatory, but he did not know it was false.
June 18 – Pagones marries.
June 30 – Pagones visits doctor.
Aug. 2 – Pagones testifies before a Grand Jury.
Aug. – United African Movement is launched in support of Brawley and all African
American women.
Sept. 2 – Pagones visits Doctor.
Oct. 6 – The state grand jury concludes there is no evidence to support
Brawley’s story and “exonerates” Pagones.
Oct. 31 Pagones files an $800 million slander lawsuit against Tawana Brawley,
Alton Maddox, C. Vernon Mason and Al Sharpton. He claimed advisers to Tawana
Brawley defamed him when they accused him of participating in the alleged kidnap
and rape of the Wappinger’s Falls teenager.
Nov. Maddox requests deposition of Pagones. Pagones seeks to quash deposition.
He is unsuccessful.
February 28 – State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Beisner dismisses 36 causes of
action against Sharpton and Maddox.
Sept. Pagones goes to Appellate division to get a restraining order to preclude
his deposition.
Oct. – Judicial Grievance Committee sends Maddox a letter telling him to bring
all files on Tawana Brawley and appear at a hearing to tell them everything
Tawana had told him. Maddox refuses.
May 21 – Attorney Alton Maddox is suspended from practicing law for refusing to
appear before a judicial grievance committee investigating his conduct in the
Brawley case. Maddox says he will not undermine his lawyer/client privilege.
Nov. – Rudolph Giuliani, former Prosecutor, Southern District, is elected Mayor
of New York City.
May 7 – State Supreme court Justice Ralph Beisner rules Brawley intentionally
inflicted emotional distress on Pagones when her advisers accused him of
abducting and assaulting her.
Several judges in Dutchess County decline to try the case.
1995 Judge Hickman, a friend of George Pataki’s from nearby Putnam County is
selected to try the case.
Jan-Aug. – Depositions taken.
Oct. 28 – Judge Hickman rules that Maddox will not be able to present witnesses
to provide evidence to support his claim that Pagones was involved in the rape
of Miss Brawley and the death of Harry Crist. He rules in his motion that
Crist’s death “had no connection with Tawana Brawley.” He also rules that
Pagones does not have to verify his alibi with witnesses, and if called they
will not be permitted to testify. He rules the defendants could not question the
Grand Jury report, and that Maddox and Mason could not assert the
“attorney-client privilege”. This because the Brawley family had not “come
forward to document the fact that either Maddox or Mason or both were retained
to represent Ms. Brawley; and “there is nothing definitive in the record to
explain how Rev. Sharpton suddenly became the religious adviser to (her)”.
Said Maddox: “Justice Hickman obviously relied upon (the Dred Scott) decision to
rule against (me), Mason, Sharpton and Brawley. This decision is necessary in
order to insulate Pagones from a criminal indictment. Also, Pagones had said he
had more than 50 witnesses who could account for every minute of the day that he
was accused of being with Brawley, but now the judge is saying (he) doesn’t have
to present even one witness.
Nov. 13 – Trial begins at the Dutchess County Courthouse in Poughkeepsie, New
Nov. 18 Jury selection.
Dec. 2 – Brawley breaks her 10-year silence, speaking at Bethany Baptist Church
in Brooklyn. “If I had read everything about me in the past 10 years, I would
say it was a hoax, too. But it happened to me and I am not a liar,” she tells a
crowd of nearly 800 people.
Jan. 13 – Judge Hickman rules there is no compelling reason for former Gov.
Mario Cuomo and former state Attorney General Robert Abrams to come to
Poughkeepsie to testify at the trial, although they both played roles in the
Brawley probe. Because of this ruling, the advisers can not call Cuomo and
Abrams as witnesses.
April 17 – Members of the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African
People (CEMOTAP) conduct a press conference in Poughkeepsie to complain about
media coverage of the trial.
April 29 – Jackson is jailed overnight for being cited for contempt for a third
time. Rev. Sharpton offers to serve the jail term for Jackson. Hickman rejects
Sharpton’s proposal.
June 26 – Judge Hickman issues a ruling that there is evidence to support most
of Pagones’ claims that he was defamed and rejects the defendants’ motions to
quash the plaintiff’s accusation against them.
July 13 – The jury finds all three defendants liable for defaming Pagones. It
finds Rev. Al Sharpton liable for seven statements, Alton H. Maddox liable for
two and C. Vernon Mason liable for one. Eleven other statements of the 22
statements Pagones’ found to be defamatory were not slanderous, the jury
determined. It is a partial victory for the defendants. A lone juror — a black
woman — refuses to sign the verdict sheet.
July 14 – Robert Abrams, (calling WABC Radio in from a meeting of the National
Association of Attorneys General, SAGE, Society of Attorneys General Emeritus in
Colorado): “I extend congratulations to Steven Pagones…There’s no amount of
money that can compensate for the kind of pain he has suffered, he has endured,
he has been put through. As I reflect on this, I’m proud of the fact, here we
are ten years later, and the Grand Jury report stays intact.
“The Grand Jury said that the allegations made by Tawana Brawley namely that she
was abducted by four white men or a group of white men who were attached to law
enforcement and held in the woods against her will for a four- day period and
repeatedly raped. That allegation was false.
“There was no indication whatever that she was physically raped. There was a
rape test conducted when she was taken to the hospital… If a person was held
against her will, repeatedly raped in the out of doors, there would have been
all kinds of physical evidence that would have indicated that. So what I think
what this verdict does and this trial did do, was to show that the investigation
that was conducted which was done by a team of extremely professional and
dedicated investigators headed on a day-to-day basis by a fantastic public
servant, Jack Ryan, who was assistant Attorney General in charge of the criminal
prosecutions bureau, and I was designated the Special Prosecutor. I took full
responsibility for the investigation and put Jack Ryan in charge of the
day-to-day activity of the investigation.”
July 29 Jury awards damages. $5,000 ea. For compensatory damages. Punitive
Damages – $96,000 Maddox, $60,000 Sharpton, $186,000 C. Vernon Mason.
Appeals filed.