25 Years After Her Rape Claims Sparked a Firestorm, Tawana Brawley Avoids the Spotlight

Michael Gartland, New York Post, December 23, 2012

Her silence is deafening.

Twenty-five years after the spotlight first glared on Tawana Brawley—a black woman who as a teen claimed she was raped by a gang of white men, smeared with feces and stuffed in a garbage bag—she’s desperately struggling to stay hidden from public view.

“I don’t want to talk to anyone about that,” Brawley, 40, said recently after The Post found her in Hopewell, Va., where she lives in a neatly kept brick apartment complex with signs warning of video surveillance cameras.

By all appearances, her life—so chaotic a quarter-century ago—now seems normal.

Brawley, using aliases such as Thompson and Gutierrez, now has a young daughter, a neighbor says, and works as a licensed practical nurse at The Laurels of Bon Air in Richmond, where co-workers were clueless about her past.

“Are you serious? We don’t know her by that name. Isn’t that a trip?” squealed one staffer, who called Brawley, known to staff as Tawana Gutierrez, “a good worker.”

On a recent Friday, Brawley, noticeably heavier and dressed in pink scrubs, emerged from her apartment at about 6:30 a.m. with a small child and a man wearing red hospital scrubs.

Tawana Brawley

Tawana Brawley


She arrived at work in Richmond about 30 minutes later, and the man pulled in minutes afterward.

Hopewell—where Brawley has lived for at least a year, according to a neighbor—has the highest rate of violent crime per capita of any city or town in Virginia, local cops say. Plagued by drugs and guns, it had five murders in the last three weeks. {snip}


State records show “Tawana V. Gutierrez” and “Tawana V. Thompson” have held the same nursing license since 2006. The Virginia Board of Nursing confirmed issuing it to a “Tawana Vacenia Thompson Gutierrez.”

Brawley maintains a PO box in Claremont, Va., under the name Gutierrez, according to sources.

That town is a 45-minute drive from Hopewell and is the residence of her stepdad, Ralph King, who spent seven years in prison in the 1970s for killing his first wife.

Locals in the rural mill town described King, who lives in a ramshackle house near the end of a dead-end street where dogs run wild, as a nasty man and said they hadn’t seen Tawana in years.

“He’s real mean,” one man said.


A quarter-century ago, Brawley, then just 15, told a story incredible for its sheer brutality.

After she went missing for four days from her home in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County, Brawley was found in a trash bag on Nov. 28, 1987, dazed, covered in feces and with the words “n——r” and “b—-h” scrawled in charcoal on her body and “KKK” carved into her shoe.

Initially, Brawley said little, simply nodding or writing notes when investigators questioned her and revealing that she had been abducted by two white men in a dark car who drove her to the woods, where four other white men were waiting.

Details were in short supply. Tawana couldn’t offer names or even a description of the attackers who ravaged her for four days.

She said her memory went blank from the time she was attacked until she was discovered. Though she did recall that one of her attackers had blond hair, a holster—and a badge.

The shocking allegations polarized New York City—already a powder keg of racial tension a year after a white mob attacked three black teens in Howard Beach, Queens, killing one.

The case attracted attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, and the then-little-known Rev. Al Sharpton, who used it to catapult to the national stage.

Less than a week after Brawley was discovered, Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr., 28, was found dead in his apartment.

Soon, Brawley’s advisers would name Crist as a suspect in the rape. And when Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones offered an alibi for Crist, Pagones suddenly found himself also accused.

Sharpton and Brawley’s lawyers claimed—without proof—that Pagones kidnapped, abused and raped Brawley on 33 occasions.

They also fingered state trooper Scott Patterson, a friend of Crist and Pagones, who found Crist’s body.

Brawley became a cause célèbre. Bill Cosby posted a $25,000 reward for information on the case; Don King promised $100,000 for Brawley’s education; and boxer Mike Tyson gave her a $30,000 watch to ease her pain.

But a grand jury found in 1988 that Brawley was never raped and the whole incredible case was all a hoax.

The panel, which heard from 180 witnesses over its seven-month investigation, found evidence that Brawley ran away from home and was hiding out in the vacant apartment from which her parents were just evicted and that she spun her yarn to avoid being punished for staying out late and missing school.


The hateful words scrawled on Brawley’s body were upside down—likely written by Brawley herself, and traces of the charcoal-like material were found under her fingernails, the grand jury found.

Brawley showed no signs of genital trauma or exposure. No semen was found. The feces on her body was traced to her neighbor’s dog. One witness said Brawley was seen climbing into the garbage bag.

The grand jury found that Crist committed suicide because he was upset after breaking up with his girlfriend and over his failure to pass a state police exam. {snip}

“It is probable that in the history of this state, never has a teenager turned the prosecutorial and judicial systems literally upside down with such false claims,” state Supreme Court Justice S. Barrett Hickman wrote at the time.


In 1998, 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 paid by celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran and other benefactors.

Brawley was ordered to fork over $190,000 at 9 percent annual interest. None of that has been paid, which brings her total bill to $429,000.

Pagones, who served as Dutchess County assistant district attorney until 1990, continues to search for her.

“Through her silence, she’s as guilty of libel as Maddox, Mason and Sharpton,” he said. “The only way to hold her accountable—at least at this stage—is financially.”


Pagones blames Sharpton more than anyone else for his troubles.

“I don’t ever expect him to say he’s sorry, but he should at least come clean and admit that, after the trial, that now he knows Steven Pagones had nothing to do with Tawana Brawley,” Pagones said.

Pagones is correct: To this day, Sharpton remains unapologetic.

“Does Donald Trump owe the Central Park Five an apology? He advocated in the Central Park case what he believed, I advocated what I believe,” he told The Post, referring to Trump’s full-page ads demanding the death penalty for five teens accused—and eventually exonerated—of raping a jogger in Central Park.


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  • Puggg

    But Al Sharpton won’t avoid the spotlight.

  • pcmustgo

    Wow! She really blew up. I remember her being kind of pretty or cute as a teen. I was a young kid when this happened, but damn… Tawana… she’s come a long way. She’s aged well, like most black women though. She’s 40 but still looks young.

    Ok, so she’s a typical Black Single Mother living in a typically modest brick apartment complex working a typical black female job- nursing.

    • The__Bobster

      Not totally typical. A typical one would be dragging five daddyless welfare checks behind her.

    • gemjunior

      She was always an ugly chimp. A humanzee, a cross between human and chimp LOL. Never pretty or cute, she looked like a female spike lee with those exopthalmic bulging eyeballs and that sullen look. Thos comments were typical negro excuse-making. It’s hard not to hate them, and it’s hard to pity themafter all this time. The comments are proof of their inability to tell the truth. Like a kid that’s been caught doing something red-handed, then insisting in spite of the evidence in their hand that they didn’t do it. They are utterly beyond repair, we can’t live with them, can live without them (better than anything we’ve ever known!) so we must hope for a chance to send them back to the heart of darkness.

      • No one ever claimed she was beautiful.

        • dhs

          Her looks are irrelevant; it’s her character that is ugly.

        • gemjunior

          No one ever claimed she was beautiful, I know, but even the claim above that she was “pretty or cute teen” was too much for me to bear and I just had to comment about it. So not beautiful, not cute or pretty, but chimpish.

    • HamletsGhost

      When you are as low down on the totem pole of pulchritude as most black women are, it’s hard to go much lower.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      Which one is Tawana Brawley?

      • Rosebud

        The one on the right.

    • i am

      By the time you are 40 you get the face you deserve.

    • shmo123

      I don’t know for sure, but based purely on observation, don’t most black women “blow up”? I may be wrong, but diets that consist mostly of fried chicken, cheeseburgers and grape soda-pop do not make for a svelte figure.

  • OlderWoman

    I never thought she was pretty or cute. I thought she was a monster. She’s still a monster as far as I am concerned. Typical black…dishonest, racist and a coward.

    • Black

      typical black?

  • The__Bobster

    Details were in short supply. Tawana couldn’t offer names or even a description of the attackers who ravaged her for four days.

    Yet the agenda-driven media never had a doubt about her story. The great White perps had to be apprehended.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    So basically Brawley slandered an entire race, got the city and indeed the country in an uproar and probably inspired several incidents of black on white violence, cost the city thousands of dollars in investigating the case, and is now living under an assumed name. And she “doesn’t want to talk about it?” Sounds like the behavior of a criminal and perjurist to me. And Al Charlatan is once again marked as the despicable charlatan he is.

  • Ulick

    Tawana has avoided the spotlight, but her media pimp, Al Sharpton, got the spotlight then and never relinqueshed it. If anything, Liberals have now made him mainstream by giving him his own news show and Obama making him a White House consultant. It’s amazing given the man’s history.

  • lily-white
    • Dr. Möbias

      Let me guess. Kill Whitey? Whitey be racist? Whitey owe us?

      No thanks. I don’t have to read comments on “black world” to know what 99% of them say

    • Oil Can Harry

      Those posts were beyond belief. These airheads actually believe Tawana Brawley and Crystal Mangum (of Duke Lacrosse infamy) were gang-raped but the white man covered up the truth.

      Now you know why Abe Lincoln believed blacks were too dopey to be allowed to sit on juries.

    • blight14

      Unbelievable…..these poor dolts truly do not have a clue…..

    • Everyone should leave a comment there. They are very upset she has been “outed”.


      They have one big advantage over Whites – they STICK together. We, on the other hand, have way too many John Englemans.

  • Dr. Möbias

    Twana Brawley is a worthless pig. She and Sharpton should be in jail serving six rape sentences, which is what the innocent guys they accused were facing. She should have been given a sentence of hard labor and made to pay back Steven Pagones after she nearly ruined his life.’

    Now Al Sharpton is a Democratic political leader with White House access and a political analyst for MSNBC.

    • Richmond Tom

      I am not A Christian, but I do like to think that if it is real, and if I am going to hell, then I get to see Al there. I feel like it would ease the suffering some to see him suffering with me. Him and “Rev Jesse Jackson”

      • StillModerated

        You won’t see Jesse or Al there because deyz bein’ revrums who done gibs deyz lives to Jebus, n’ $#!+. Strike that, Jesus said, “some will say we worked miracles in your name.” and he’ll reply, “depart from me. I never knew you.”

  • Wage Slave

    Blacks are obviously none too bright but they do stick together. Black right or wrong. Also important for Blacks is their need to blame others (Whites) for their own failures.
    Like Children and children can be very naughty especially when you add guns, alkohol and drugs.

  • Whenever anyone speaks glowingly about Rev’rum Al Sharpton to me, I respond with just two words, “Tawana” and then “Brawley,” and then rev’rum is still a pimp.

  • sandy truthtree

    I hope pagones sues her and gets a lien against her paycheck!

    • Because of this article, he should have an easier time finding her to garnish her wages.

    • Nicholai Hel
      • Sam

        That’s cool! I’m glad she is finally caught. It’s enough money plus interest that she will never escape it unless she declares bankruptcy. His guy will be able to take her car, her home (if she owns it) and her bank accounts.

        Unfortunately she may decide it’s easier to declare BK, or become unemployed, than it is to work and lose a chunk of her paycheck. Taxpayers to the rescue again!

  • NYB

    I have to ask, for what purpose did the media drag this out?

    By shining a spotlight on her identity, the press is victimizing her, just as it callously sensationalized the original hoax.

    The media gets off on frontpage black-white friction, which is the preeminent distraction of our times, diverting attention from the real issues.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      When you falsely and repeatedly accuse innocent men of rape, someone bringing up later the lies for which you have never apologized does not constitute “victimization”.

  • The whole reason for the hoax is that she skipped school to visit her boyfriend who was in jail and did not want to get beaten by her stepfather for this. Her stepfather is a mean man and spent years in prison for killing his first wife. She concocted the story to make him mad at white racists to get herself off the hook.

  • Joseph

    I’m sure that Al Sharpton will be happy to explain the mixup.

  • [Guest]

    >>>The shocking allegations polarized New York City…

    The shocking allegations were so obviously false that no one should have taken them seriously for a moment. But whenever the magic charge of racism is heard, the truth no longer matters.

    >>>Tawana Vacenia Thompson Guiterrez

    Also among Tawana Brawley’s past names was Maryam Muhammad. So, what happened to her conversion to “the religion of peace”?

  • Joe

    How TF do you get a nursing license under an assumed name? Don’t those things involve bakcground checks, at least for criminal records? Or did she legally change her name, I wonder. And if she’s working as a nurse, she’s probably making reasonably good income, and it’s paid as a regular salary, so how can she avoid paying this judgment against her? It’s quite easy to take a judgement and garnish wages based on that, and in most states, judgements don’t expire for a long long time.

    Her life is one long list of TNB probably. The only thing I don’t understand is how the system even lets stuff like this happen?

    • Angry White Woman

      I doubt she used assumed name(s). Sounds more like she got married, divorced and remarried, thus aquiring an assortment of last names for legal use. Blacks, especially black men, don’t care much for marriage, but they do recognize it’s occasional usefulness.

  • Michael_C_Scott

    Why is she hiding her identity if she’s blameless?

  • Unperson

    The feces on her body was traced to her neighbor’s dog. One witness said Brawley was seen climbing into the garbage bag.”

    Reminds me of a Tawana Brawley joke I heard in New York more than 20 years ago, back when this horrible media circus was in full swing:

    “Did you hear that Tawana Brawley was arrested for public drunkenness? Police found her s***-faced and half in the bag!”

  • Lygeia

    Apparently, she was incredibly terrified of her monstrous step-father, a fear that seems justified. Her step-father was imprisoned for killing his first wife. One has to wonder what kind of a mother Tawana Brawley had to marry such a man, and I do feel sorry for the young teen-age girl who at the time felt she had to make up such a story.

    That being said, her false accusations ignited a powder keg of social violence and a group of young white men were prosecuted on her lying testimony.

    We need to stop believing that all black people want to go to college and be like white people (even though, apparently, Ms. Brawley nee “Thompson” or “Guitierez” became a licensed nurse). The amount of violence that occurs (five murders alone in the town where she lives in one week) both within and without the black home is incredulous and yet must be believed. We cannot co-exist with people like this.

  • Rosebud

    The only positive thing to emerge from the Tawana Brawley fiasco, as far as I’m concerned, is how much of a fool it made Al Sharpton looked. (In fact, Sharpton has always been considered a fool to me.)

    The moral of this story is this: when a black girl alleges that she’s been assaulted by a bunch of white guys, 9 times out of 10, she’s lying. Know this and know it well.

  • StillModerated

    The shocking allegations polarized New York City—already a powder keg of
    racial tension a year after a white mob attacked three black teens in
    Howard Beach, Queens, killing one.

    Since Howard Beach remains 93% white, one has to wonder just exactly 3 bantu youfs were doing there in the first place.