Trials & Litigation

Tawana Brawley ordered to pay settlement to man she accused of rape; her wages will be garnished

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Corrected: Tawana Brawley, who at 15 and with the backing of the Rev. Al Sharpton claimed she was kidnapped and raped by a group of white men, has been hit with an wage-garnishment order to settle $431,492 judgment in a 1997 defamation case won by one of the men she accused.

A Surry County, Va., court order directed that Brawley’s employer garnish her wages to pay back Steven Pagones, who at the time of her 1987 accusation was a state prosecutor in New York, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported. Brawley, who now goes by Tawana Gutierrez, works at a Richmond, Va., nursing home. Pagones filed and won the defamation action against Brawley, Sharpton and their lawyers more than a decade ago after a grand jury did not indict him on the rape charges.

Garry Bolnick, Pagones’ lawyer, told the Poughkeepsie Journal that getting any sort of payment from the woman has been difficult. Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason were ordered to pay restitution to Pagones of $97,000 and $188,000, respectively; and Sharpton was ordered to pay $66,000, the New York Post reported. Brawley, who was ordered to pay $190,000, is the only one who hasn’t paid, the Post reported. At 9 percent interest, her debt totals $431,492.

Up to 25 percent of Brawley’s paycheck could be garnished unless she meets a low-income exemption based on a sliding scale, Amanda Crouch, a Virginia lawyer, told the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Pagones told the Post that he might decide to waive the judgment if Brawley were to say that she falsely accused him. “People criticize me for going after a hardworking single mother trying to support herself and child. My argument has been she has not been held accountable. If she is not going to tell the truth, then it is about the money. That is the only way to hold her accountable.”

Updated on Feb. 4 to correct a misspelling in the headline.

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