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Brawley Trial Under Way

December 5, 1997

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) _ The Rev. Al Sharpton could not have conspired with a black teen-ager who accused six whites of raping her because he didn’t get involved until months after she first made her allegation, his attorney said Thursday.

Sharpton and two other former advisers of Tawana Brawley are defendants in a $395 million defamation lawsuit filed by Steven Pagones, a former prosecutor who Miss Brawley accused of abducting and raping her in 1987.

Miss Brawley’s accusations against Pagones and five other white law enforcers were later declared a hoax by a grand jury.

``To bring Rev. Sharpton into a courtroom to say he conspired with a 15-year-old girl is an insult,″ said Michael Hardy, Sharpton’s lawyer. ``There will not be a scintilla of evidence that Rev. Sharpton conspired with anyone.″

Sharpton had nothing to do with the case until three months after Miss Brawley was found covered with feces and racial epithets in November 1987, and heard of Pagones’ alleged involvement through news accounts, Hardy said in his opening statement.

``He never did anything more than call for an investigation. That’s not defamation.″

The other defendants, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, presented their opening statements Wednesday. Representing himself, Maddox accused state law enforcement officials of using the 1988 grand jury report to cover-up the assault on Miss Brawley.

Mason was the first witness to testify, telling the jury Thursday that he first met the Brawley family about a month after the alleged abduction. He said Miss Brawley was unable to sit up or get off the couch and looked like someone who had been severely traumatized.

Mason also admitted that he never did his own inquiry to independently corroborate Miss Brawley’s story, but said it was OK for him to name Pagones because he had already been identified as a suspect by Miss Brawley, Maddox and, subsequently, the media.

Mason was to continue his testimony Friday.

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