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Broken Scales by Joel Cohen

Broken Scales by Joel Cohen

Author:Joel Cohen
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: American Bar Association
Published: 2017-06-20T16:00:00+00:00


1. This interview took place at Ms. Moskowitz’s home in Washington Township, New Jersey.

6

Falsely Accused by Those with a Public Platform

Steven Pagones

I was very upset with the way the law was manipulated. And again I was a part of the system. I was a prosecutor. I believed in the system. I believed that you investigate and then you prosecute. Not that you prosecute and then you investigate.

—Steven Pagones, December 29, 20141

Steven Pagones—the name sounds familiar. You can’t quite place it, and then it hits you. He was accused of raping Tawana Brawley back in the 1980s. Rev. Al Sharpton was involved. You remember, somehow, that Pagones didn’t do it, that Brawley’s claims (really, Sharpton’s claims) were a hoax. But what happened again?

Let’s go back to 1987. Steven Pagones was a newly admitted lawyer and he had his first job—rather than go into private practice, he decided to serve the public and was an assistant district attorney in Dutchess County, New York. As an A.D.A., he worked for the person charged with enforcing the laws within the jurisdiction, and he was responsible for prosecuting those who violated the law. And “law” is what the Pagones family did—his father was a judge, his brother and cousin are judges.

Yet, less than a year after Pagones began work, he was accused of participating in a racially motivated kidnapping and gang rape of a 15-year old black girl. What possible circumstances could have led this man—engaged to be married, working in the town he grew up in, and living a perfectly ordinary middle-class life—to be accused of such heinous crimes? The story is so unbelievable it has to be true.

November 1987: Tawana Brawley, a black 15-year-old, was found behind her apartment complex in Wappinger Falls, New York. She was wrapped in a garbage bag with “KKK” and “Nigger” smeared in feces across her body. She claimed to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by three men, one a “white cop,” words which she scribbled on a pad while in the hospital. Her stepfather insisted that the “white cops” would do nothing to help Brawley and law enforcement immediately insisted that a black police officer from a neighboring town interview her.

A few days after Brawley was found, Pagones’s good friend, Harry Crist, Jr.—himself a policeman—committed suicide. Crist left a suicide note; he was distraught over a failed romance and work problems, and it seemed clear that his suicide had nothing to do with “guilt” over Brawley. But Crist was a “white cop” and he had killed himself. He was a convenient pawn—and so, he was now named by Brawley’s handlers as Brawley’s attacker. And just who were these handlers? C. Vernon Mason, Alton H. Maddox, Jr., and none other than the then-youthful Reverend Al Sharpton, fresh off having successfully pushed for a special prosecutor for the racially motivated Howard Beach killings.

There was one problem—Pagones knew Crist did not attack Brawley. Not only because Crist was his friend and because he believed Crist would never do such a thing.



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