Civil-rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton on Friday defended his old position that a racially driven rape case involving a black female teenager should have been escalated to a trial even after a grand jury decided that the alleged victim had fabricated her claims.
The case concerned Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old African-American girl who alleged in 1987 that she had been kidnapped and raped by a group of white men including law-enforcement officers, who also smeared feces and wrote racial slurs on her body. Sharpton supported Brawley and demanded that prosecutors bring her case to trial. A grand-jury investigation concluded that her story was a hoax.
During an appearance on the PBS program Firing Line with Margaret Hoover on Friday night, Sharpton stood by his comments that Brawley’s accusations deserved to be heard in court.
“I don’t have any different understanding because a grand jury is not a trial,” Sharpton said. “She deserved to have a day in court. Let us bring the case to court. And this prosecutor would not do that.”
When Hoover asked whether anything had changed in the 35 years to persuade him to accept the grand jury’s findings, Sharpton replied: “Absolutely not.”
Sharpton said a prosecutor on the case once charged him with stealing from his youth group. “So why would I believe what he did with the grand jury when I saw what he did to me?” he asked.
The grand jury noted that Brawley’s sexual-assault kit showed no evidence that she’d been attacked and abused, deducing that she might have faked the incident to avoid getting in trouble with her parents for being away from the house for a week.
Sharpton doubled down that he does not believe he was misled in Brawley’s case
“Her lawyers is who I talked to. I’m not going to ask a 15-year-old girl all the details that you said. I have no reason to feel she misled the lawyers. I believe that it never went to court, and therefore we do not know what evidence was presented that backed up what he presented to a grand jury,” he said.
Referring to the grand jury’s determination, Sharpton retorted: “That is not the justice system.” Over the years, Sharpton has faced great pressure from the media to apologize for his rhetoric, Hoover pointed out. Again, Sharpton refused to apologize.