Last Updated: 5:33 AM, January 31, 2013
Posted: 1:41 AM, January 31, 2013
Infamous hoaxster Tawana Brawley — whose outrageous rape lie 25 years ago inflamed racial tensions nationwide — yesterday was finally slapped with a court order to settle a hefty defamation case against her.
“For at least 25 years, she has been living a major lie,” said former Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones, who was falsely accused of raping Brawley in 1987 and finally tracked her down, thanks to The Post.
“To me, this has always been about responsibility and accountability,’’ added the former ADA, who won the $190,000 defamation lawsuit against Brawley, 40, now a nurse in Virginia, more than a decade ago.
At 9 percent interest, that debt, which Brawley never attempted to pay off, now totals $431,492, according to the wage-garnishment papers filed in Virginia’s Surry County Court.
Brawley — whose unbelievable lies made the Rev. Al Sharpton a household name as he bombastically championed her cause — had changed her name and moved down South in the years since she was exposed.
Her fugitive-like antics long thwarted Pagones’ efforts to serve her with the court papers needed to get the financial damages due him.
But The Post finally found Brawley last month, effectively leading Pagones and his lawyer to her.
She was living under the assumed name of Tawana Vacenia Thompson Gutierrez in Hopewell, Va., and working as a licensed nurse at The Laurels of Bon Air, a nursing home in nearby Richmond.
According to Pagones’ lawyer, Garry Bolnick, the single mom’s wages could be docked 10 to 25 percent per paycheck as retribution for her lies.
Pagones said he might waive his entitled windfall — if Brawley finally ’fesses up.
“There is a feeling of unfinished business to it,” he said of the case that ended his career and cost him his marriage. “I look at this as another opportunity for her to tell the truth.
“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,” said Pagones, who is now principal owner of a private investigations firm.
But Pagones said he wonders if Sharpton will again try to rush to her aid and bail her out.
“I’ve got to believe since he is primarily responsible for all the damage done, I would think he would come to her aid. That’s what I expect,” Pagones said.
Seemingly a lifetime ago, a 15-year-old Brawley of Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County was found in a trash bag covered in feces with the words “n- - - -r” and “bitch” scrawled upside down on her body and “KKK” carved into her shoe.
Sharpton, still relatively unknown outside New York City, and lawyers Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, immediately took up her cause as she claimed she was attacked by a gang of white men, including Pagones.
When 28-year-old Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr., committed suicide a week later — likely over a romantic breakup and failing the New York State Police exam — Sharpton and his allies used the incident to accuse Crist of participating in the rape.
When Pagones, a friend of Crist, offered an alibi for his besmirched dead friend, he found himself accused of raping Brawley nearly three dozen times.
After a year of hell, a grand jury found Brawley’s accusations without any merit. She likely fabricated the story because she feared her stepfather’s wrath for staying out late, according to the grand-jury evidence.
“This has been on my mind every time Sharpton has been in the news,” Pagones said of the case.
“I am reminded of the damage Tawana Brawley, Sharpton, Mason and Maddox caused. It’s something I live with all the time.”
In 1997, Pagones won a defamation lawsuit against Sharpton, Brawley and her lawyers.
Maddox was found liable for $97,000, Mason for $188,000, and Sharpton was ordered to pony up $66,000, money that was coughed up by O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran and others.
Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland, Reuven Fenton and Michael Gartland