Tawana Brawley case

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The Tawana Brawley case gained notoriety in 1987–88 when Tawana Brawley falsely accused six white men of having raped her in a hate crime hoax. The charges received widespread national attention because of her age (15), the persons accused (including police officers and a prosecuting attorney), and the shocking state in which Brawley was discovered after the rape (naked and covered with feces). Brawley's accusations were given widespread media attention in part from the involvement of her advisers, including the Reverend Al Sharpton and attorneys Alton H. Maddox, Jr. and C. Vernon Mason, three other African-Americans.[1]

After hearing evidence, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley had not been a victim of rape and that she herself may have created the appearance of an attack.[2] Steven Pagones, the New York prosecutor whom Brawley had accused as being one of her assailants, successfully sued her and her three advisers for defamation.[3]


  1. Edwin Diamond. The Media Show: The Changing Face of the News, 1985-1990, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1991. Quote: "The great paradox of Brawley 2 was that this dumb show went on for months, encouraged by the authorities and the media. The "white power structure" —as Sharpton calls it — all but propped up the advisers' shaky scenarios. The governor and the attorney general, their eyes on electoral politics as well as the case, gave the appearance of trying to avoid offense to any constituency, black or white."
  2. Court TV.
  3. Pagones v. Maddox et. al..