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Cuomo Says Brawley Lawyers’ Conditions “Don’t Mean Anything″

February 26, 1988

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Gov. Mario Cuomo today accused lawyers for a black teen-ager who says she was assaulted by six white men of ″making up conditions″ as part of their continuing refusal to have the young woman testify about the case.

Meanwhile, the teen-ager’s aunt was quoted today as saying the girl hadn’t even talked about the case with the lawyers representing her.

Tawana Brawley, 16, missing for four days in November, was found wrapped in a plastic garbage bag and covered with feces, with racial insults scrawled on her body. She said she was assaulted by six white men, one of whom flashed a police badge.

Miss Brawley, of Wappinger’s Falls north of New York City, and her family have refused to be questioned further on the advice of attorneys C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox Jr. of New York City, the lawyers who used a similar tactic to get a special prosecutor appointed in the Howard Beach manslaughter case.

Cuomo had nothing good to say about those lawyers at an impromptu news conference today.

″They said they had reasons they could not cooperate. ... It’s clear now they don’t really,″ Cuomo said of the two lawyers. ″These conditions obviously don’t mean anything. They keep making up new conditions.″

Maddox and Mason were on the road this morning and not immediately available for comment on Cuomo’s statements or today’s report in the Middletown Times Herald Record newspaper that Miss Brawley hadn’t talked to the lawyers about the case.

Cuomo said again today that he was willing to meet with Miss Brawley if it would help push the stalled investigation along. However, he said he would do so only if her lawyers approved and state Attorney General Robert Abrams, Cuomo’s special prosecutor in the case, said it would be helpful.

In her interview with the Middletown newspaper, Juanita Brawley, who helped raise Tawana for eight years and who has spent time with her since her attack, said she is the only one who knows enough about the incident to keep the lawyers and the girl’s mother informed.

″I know a few things that no one else knows,″ she said in an interview at her home. She said of Maddox: ″He has not talked to Tawana. He does not need to talk to Tawana.″ She did not elaborate.

On Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said the Brawley family would go to jail before testifying before a grand jury empaneled by Abrams.

Sharpton, a minister from New York City who has said he is advising the family, said Cuomo is using ″macho politics″ in trying to compel Tawana’s testimony.

On Wednesday, Cuomo had called on Abrams to ask a grand jury when it convenes Monday in Poughkeepsie to force Miss Brawley and her family to cooperate with investigators.

″Someone is going to give him a macho award for beating up on a young girl who has already been abused,″ Sharpton said of Cuomo.

This morning, Cuomo said that whatever happened with the grand jury, he thought it was ″very unlikely″ that Tawana would be sent to jail even if she continued her refusal to cooperate with Abrams’ investigation.

On Thursday, Cuomo had told New York City radio station WLIB that he can’t understand why the Brawley family will not cooperate with authorities.

″I see no reason, no common-sense reason, no difficult-to-understand reason, why there is not cooperation,″ Cuomo said. ″At one point you have to ask yourself, why aren’t they cooperating with the prosecutors?″

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