By Mary Alice Miller
With little fanfare, on July 23, 2013 a Surry County, Virginia court judge dismissed former Dutchess County assistant district attorney Steven Pagones’ “bogus” garnishment of Tawana Brawley’s wages. Since Feb. 8, 2013 more than $300 had been withheld from Tawana’s wages pending transfer to Pagones. A July 23 hearing date was set after the garnishment began. Attorneys Michael Lloyd and Fred Dean appeared before the court on the hearing date to submit documents to the court challenging the garnishment. Tawana refused to appear. Pagones’ counsel did not appear. Tawana’s counsel had to travel from Surry County to Norfolk, Virginia to present Pagones’ counsel with their response.
“It took over 25 years for Tawana to finally get her day in court. When she received it, it was not in New York but in Virginia,” said Attorney-at-War Alton Maddox. “It only took a judge in Virginia five minutes to decide the case.”
Maddox said Tawana’s legal team did not know what the Surry County, Virginia judge would decide when they entered the Surry Courthouse building. “The only thing we knew when we went in the building was that we should provide the records and proceedings in New York that had not been provided by Pagones who had deferred to do so,” said Maddox. “He had not done it. We knew that Pagones had not complied with the law by providing all the records and proceedings in New York as is required under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Tawana’s legal team prepared all of the records. It took some time for the team to obtain those records from Dutchess County, but they did. They then wrote a substantial brief to point out everything the judge would need to know.
“It was curious that Virginia would even begin to take money from Tawana’s paycheck without first having some evidence that she had defaulted in New York and the circumstances of that default,” said Maddox. “Rather than wait for injustice to repeat itself, we decided to correct that by getting all the records and proceedings and filing the legal papers in Surry to explain her plight.”
Pagones had presented the default judgment of Tawana in a defamation case against Al Sharpton, C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox to the Virginia court. The judgment was filed without any supporting documents which would have revealed that Tawana was never served to appear in a defamation lawsuit related to her rape and kidnapping in 1988. Tawana was a minor at the time and no law guardian was appointed to represent her legal interests. Pagones never sued her. In addition, there is a question as to whether the statute of limitations had expired on the “bogus” default.
Maddox won in the defamation lawsuit. Sharpton and Mason lost and were ordered to pay damages.
Pagones allegedly communicated that he would drop the garnishment if Tawana would publicly apologize for his name being connected to her rape, kidnapping and physical abuse. Tawana refused to apologize. Tawana did not publicly name Pagones as one of her attackers, but separately a New York judge and jury did.
In response to local and national media that continue to engage in sloppy journalism by continuing to proclaim that Tawana engaged in a hoax Maddox said, “I would ask them to end their assignment and start complying with the free press provision of the U.S. Constitution and print the truth.”
During the weekend of Thanksgiving in 1987, Tawana got off the bus in Wappingers Falls and began walking home. She was forced into a car and over the course of four days she was raped and physically abused. She was found naked and unconscious. She was taken to a Poughkeepsie, NY hospital where a rape kit was performed. The rape kit was transferred to the custody of a local police officer and was never seen again. Hours after Tawana was taken to the hospital, police officer Harry Crist – who Tawana had identified as one of her attackers — was found dead of a gunshot wound. No gun was ever found. Local prosecutors recused themselves. Robert Abrams was appointed special prosecutor then promptly declared Crist’s death a suicide and Tawana’s rape a hoax. Ten years later at the defamation lawsuit, the medical examiner who had conducted Crist’s autopsy publicly declared his death a homicide. Crist’s murder has never been thoroughly investigated and his murderer never found. No one has been prosecuted for Tawana’s rape and kidnapping.