Tawana Brawley is an African American woman from Wappinger’s Falls, New York, who became known when she was 15 years old in 1987 for wrongly accusing four white men for brutally raping her in Dutchess County.
On November 28, 1987, Brawley, who had been missing for four days, was found seemingly unconscious in a garbage bag outside her family’s former apartment. With burned and torn clothes, she was covered in feces and had racial slurs written on her body. Brawley explained that she was abducted by car, brought to the woods, and then sexually abused and forced into oral sex. Brawley indicated one of the men who assaulted her was a white cop.
The allegations divided New York City and much of the state, as racial tensions had been growing from recent cases including a white mob attacking three black teens in Queens a year earlier. The Brawley family retained two attorneys, Alton H. Maddox Jr., and C. Vernon Mason. They also made Rev. Al Sharpton a key advisor. Brawley’s family and supporters continuously asserted that Brawley had been raped and rallies were held through the nation seeking justice for the teenager.
A week after Brawley was found, Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr. was found dead in his apartment. Brawley’s advisors believed Crist was a suspect, along with Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones, who provided an alibi for Christ, and Scott Patterson, a friend of Crist and Pagones. Without proof, Brawley’s lawyers accused them of kidnapping, abusing, and raping Brawley.
After a seven-month investigation, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley’s accusations were false and she had not been abducted or the victim of racial and sexual assault. Police reports, medical examinations, and more than 100 testimonies led to conclusions that Brawley’s story was fabricated.
Evidence presented to the grand jury showed Brawley hid in her apartment during her disappearance. She also self-inflicted, potentially with an accomplice, her injuries and condition including crawling into the