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Cuomo Urges That Girl Give Testimony

February 25, 1988|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Charging that Tawana Brawley's continued refusal to cooperate "fosters disrespect for the process of law," Gov. Mario M. Cuomo urged Wednesday that the teen-ager be required to testify before a grand jury investigating her allegations that she was kidnaped and raped by a group of white men, including an assailant who displayed a police-like badge.

The complicated and racially sensitive case in Dutchess County, north of New York City, has drawn national attention. Comedian Bill Cosby and Ed Lewis, the publisher of Essence magazine, intervened with a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to arrests. Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson visited Brawley in her home in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., promising her a $50,000 college scholarship.

But thus far Brawley, now 16, has refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

Unable to Question Her

On Nov. 28, she was found dazed and wrapped in a garbage bag near the apartment her family recently had vacated. Racial epithets were written on her body and her hair was cut in places. But prosecutors have been unable to question her to ascertain the truth of her allegations. She has refused to testify on the advice of her lawyers.

On Jan. 26, Cuomo appointed New York state Atty. Gen. Robert Abrams as special prosecutor in the case after Dutchess County Dist. Atty. William V. Grady withdrew because of a conflict of interest. The conflict has never been explained, but it was understood that it had to do with a friendship by one of Grady's staffers. A local special prosecutor also withdrew.

Negotiations between Abrams and Brawley's lawyers have become stymied. The lawyers demanded, among other conditions, that the attorney general personally present the case to a grand jury, even though Abrams has never tried a criminal case. They also demanded a voice in determining the composition of the investigation's staff.

Abrams said he would not make such guarantees. On Wednesday, Cuomo called on the teen-ager and her family to testify.

'Disrespect for . . . Law'

"We have made every reasonable effort to persuade Tawana Brawley and her advisers to cooperate with the attorney general's investigation in the interest of justice and for the good of all the people of this state," the governor said in a statement. "They have so far refused, and the manner of that refusal fosters a disrespect for the process of law that has kept this state strong for over 200 years."

"I am always amenable to reasonable discussion," Cuomo continued, "but I believe that the time has come to use whatever legal devices are available to ensure that the investigation receives the cooperation that it needs in order for justice to be served in this case."

The governor said that his views were only advisory. "Nonetheless," Cuomo added, "I believe the attorney general should ask the grand jury, to be impaneled on Monday, that it require from all those likely to have relevant evidence--including Tawana Brawley and her family--that they cooperate fully with the investigation."

Cuomo said he was confident Abrams would afford Brawley, a high school cheerleader, protection so that the trauma she has suffered would not be unnecessarily exacerbated.

"The best thing for Tawana Brawley and the people of this state is to get to the truth of this matter," Cuomo said. "Unless we change our present course, I am afraid that we will not achieve this objective."

Claim to Know Attacker

Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, Brawley's lawyers, assert that they are aware of the identity of at least one of the teen-ager's alleged attackers. But because the lawyers will not furnish further information, such statements have proven frustrating for Abrams and the governor.

The continuing refusal of Mason and Maddox to help the investigation also has brought some pressure on them from important black leaders throughout the state. Among those now calling for cooperation is Hazel Dukes, president of the state chapter of the NAACP.

And Wednesday, speaking from the steps of New York's City Hall, state Sen. David A. Paterson and Assemblyman Roger Green, two key members of the legislative black and Puerto Rican caucus, called for Abrams and members of the Brawley family to "come back to the table in a gesture of good will" and solve their differences.

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