Tawana Brawley is right up there with Boss Tweed, Bernie Madoff, and Lance Armstrong in the public Hall of Shame where buggers belong.
Sweet justice finally caught up last week with the notorious hoaxer who stirred the city’s racial pot as a teenager and then went into hiding for more than a decade, only to be tracked down by one of her victims and walloped with a court order to make her pay for the pain and suffering she caused him — and it only took a quarter of a century.
Brawley’s cock-and-bull story made world headlines on Nov. 28, 1987, when front pages screamed that the then-15-year-old was found in upstate New York, smeared with feces and wrapped in a plastic bag, her hair chopped off, her pants singed, and racist slurs scrawled over her body.
She claimed she was abducted and raped by a gang of whites, and she fingered the sheriff of Dutchess County and a young assistant district attorney named Steven Pagones among her assailants.
The Rev. Al Sharpton — then a pompadoured preacher who fancied himself as a civil-rights champion — drove the Brawley bandwagon all the way to the racial gutter, with a posse of black activist attorneys riding his coattails in glee. They used the case as grist for the political mill long after a grand jury ruled the incident a hoax.
Brawley’s whoppers ruined Pagones’s career and marriage, but their reach was far more sinister because they set into motion a chain of racially motivated crimes and incidents that rocked the city from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, rotting the Big Apple to its core, and leaving a foul after-taste for those of us who were here to witness the sour aftermath.
Those terrible times bubbled over with hate and discord — and 2,000 murders a year.
The Big Apple was ablaze with crime and no punishment, and Tawana Brawley’s crock of lies were arguably the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Tourists were scared off, New Yorkers rushed home after work to hunker down behind closed doors, and the leadership of then-Mayor Dinkins was called into question.
The mayhem reached its apex with the murder of Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst, the Central Park jogger wilding case, the Crown Heights riots, and the relentless, months-long boycott of Korean-American grocery stores in Flatbush.
Calm didn’t prevail until 1994 when Rudy Giuliani became mayor and kicked Sharpton to the curb.
Sharpton has never apologized for doing the Brawley hustle, and neither has Brawley, although she told a packed Brooklyn church in 1997, “I am not a liar, nor am I crazy.”
The evidence begs to differ.
The only recourse now for Brawley and the reverend is to come clean or continue their reign in the Hall of Shame while inspiring disgust in decent folk.
Steven Pagones’s day of reckoning has been a long time coming, but it has been worth the wait, not least for proving that liars can run, but they cannot hide. At least not forever.
https://twitter.com/#!/BritShavanaRead Shavana Abruzzo's column every Friday on BrooklynDaily.com. E-mail here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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