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Defense Rests in Brawley Lawsuit

June 18, 1998

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) _ In an uncharacteristically quiet end to the often raucous defamation lawsuit against Tawana Brawley’s advisers, the judge decided that surprise witness Geraldo Rivera couldn’t testify.

And with that, the defense rested in the seven-month-old trial, which has resurrected racial tensions that surfaced a decade ago when Brawley, who’s black, first accused plaintiff Steven Pagones and other white men of attacking her in 1987.

Pagones was exonerated in 1988 by a special grand jury that also found evidence that Brawley made up her tale of abduction and rape.

Rivera, the talk show host, was to have been the final defense witness for the Rev. Al Sharpton, who along with two other Brawley advisers is being sued by Pagones. But state Supreme Court Justice S. Barrett Hickman said Rivera ``had nothing to add to this trial.″

Closing arguments in the trial of Sharpton, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason were scheduled for early next week, putting an end in sight to a trial that was forecast to last about six weeks when jury selection began Nov. 18.

``The Brawley case has been going on for 10 years, so to only be in court for seven months is only a capsule of the time this case has really been ongoing,″ Maddox said on his way out of court.

Sharpton lawyer Michael Hardy had steadfastly refused to reveal the identity of his surprise witness all week, despite complaints from Pagones’ attorney, William Stanton.

Rivera, who appeared briefly before Hickman dismissed him, said outside of court he was relieved at not ``being dragged into someone else’s fight.″ He also lauded Sharpton as ``one of the great civil rights leaders in America.″

Sharpton, who had made accusatory statements about Pagones on Rivera’s television shows in 1988, was critical of the ruling that kept Rivera from testifying.

``I have been called in this trial a buffoon ... So I didn’t know until today that people couldn’t talk about my character,″ he said outside of court.

In his closing remarks, Stanton will argue that the Brawley advisers acted with malice and recklessness when they made their accusations. Hardy will contend that the advisers were acting on the best information available as they stood up for a 15-year-old girl. Maddox and Mason’s lawyer have additionally tried to prove that the accusations were correct.

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