The case dates back to 1987, when Sharpton, a little-known community activist in New York, claimed that Brawley, a then-15-year-old black girl, was gang-raped by officers from the New York Police Department.
Brawley—who was found outside a New York condominium wrapped in trash bags and covered in feces, with racial slurs written on her body—told authorities that she was held captive for four days.
A grand-jury ultimately concluded that her allegations were fraudulent. Steven Pagones, a prosecutor who had been falsely implicated, successfully sued for libel.
However, the Brawley family, along with Shaprton, still maintains that the claims were true.
The interview coincided with the recent release of a documentary on Sharpton, titled Loudmouth, which again reopened the debate over the hoax, noted PBS host Margaret Hoover
“You served as an advisor to her family, and, throughout the grand jury investigation—which ultimately found her story to be a hoax,” Hoover said. “In the recent film, you say to the camera that your position in the case has been distorted. “How so?”
Sharpton responded that whatever the grand jury found is irrelevant because the case was not prosecuted in court.
“My position was that there was this allegation from this young lady that was really questionable behavior by some that she accused,” Sharpton, who owes nearly $1 million from his failed 2004 presidential campaign, responded. “She deserved to have her day in court—let us bring the case to court. And this prosecutor would not do that.”
He later noted that because “a grand jury is not a trial,” he refused to believe that he may have misled others or been misled himself.
“You mean nothing has changed in 35 years?” Hoover asked.
“Absolutely not… I have no evidence that I was misled,” he replied.