C. Vernon Mason

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C. Vernon Mason was an African-American lawyer and civil rights advocate from Tucker, Arkansas. Best known for his involvement in several high-profile New York City cases in the 1980s, including the Bernhard Goetz, Howard Beach, and Tawana Brawley incidents, Mason has not practiced law since his 1995 disbarment. He then served as the CEO of a non-profit organization. He is also an ordained minister.


Mason graduated from Morehouse College and earned a Master's in Business Administration from Indiana University. He then graduated from Columbia Law School earning a Juris Doctor and, later, earned the Master of Divinity, and the Doctor of Ministry degree from New York Theological Seminary.

Notable cases[edit]

Mason was co-counsel for Darrell Cabey, one of the four men shot by Bernhard Goetz in the famous 1984 "subway vigilante" case.

Mason was one of the lawyers retained by the family of Michael Griffith, manslaughter victim in the Howard Beach incident.

In 1987 Mason, along with Alton H. Maddox and Al Sharpton, were advisors to Tawana Brawley, an African-American teenager who claimed to have been abducted and sexually assaulted by at least three white men, including at least one police officer and assistant district attorney Steven Pagones. However, a grand jury investigation into Brawley's allegations determined that she "had not been abducted, assaulted, raped and sodomized as had been claimed"[1] and that "the 'unsworn public allegations against Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones' were false and had no basis in fact."[1] Pagones filed a $385 million lawsuit against Brawley and her advisors for 22 purported defamatory statements; Mason was found liable of making one defamatory statement and ordered to pay $185,000.[2]


Mason was disbarred by the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, in 1995.[3] The court cited 66 instances of professional misconduct with 20 clients over the course of 6 years as its rationale for the action,[4] including "repeated neglect of client matters, many of which concerned criminal cases where a client's liberty was at stake; misrepresentations to clients [and] refusal to refund the unearned portion of fees".[5] Though Mason's involvement in the Brawley case was not specifically cited, Mason would allege that the ruling was intended to punish him for the Brawley case.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Steven Pagones vs. Tawana Brawley et alia". New York State. Retrieved 2007-08-26.
  2. ^ Feuer, Alan (2001-06-15). "Sharpton's Debt in Brawley Defamation Is Paid by Supporters". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  3. ^ James, George (1995-01-27). "State Appellate Court Disbars An Advocate of Civil Rights". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  4. ^ "Matter of Mason". Leagle. 26 January 1995. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
  5. ^ James, George (1995-01-27). "State Appellate Court Disbars An Advocate of Civil Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  6. ^ Bruni, Frank (1997-12-10). "Defendant Becomes an Issue in Slander Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-28.