Tyson Given Jail Term For Road Attack The Former Champion Faces Parole Violations In Indiana, And His Boxing Career Is In Jeopardy.

Posted: February 06, 1999

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is back in jail for up to a year for assaulting two motorists, and his boxing career could effectively be at an end.

The 32-year-old Tyson, dressed nattily in a three-piece gray flannel suit, stood motionless yesterday as Judge Stephen P. Johnson read the sentence in Montgomery County Court. While Tyson received sentences of two years for each of two misdemeanor assault charges, the judge ordered the terms to run concurrently and suspended one year of the sentence. Tyson also received two years' probation and 200 hours of community service after release plus a $2,500 fine.

He was accused of punching one motorist and kicking another after a minor three-car auto accident on Aug. 31. He was a passenger in his wife's Mercedes when it was hit from behind.

Johnson said Tyson had ``lashed out at two innocent people,'' wielding ``the hands and feet of a professional fighter'' as weapons after the fender-bender. He characterized Tyson's actions as ``a tragic example of potentially lethal road rage,'' and said the boxer ``repeatedly acts and speaks impulsively and violently. He's almost predictable in this way.''

While Tyson can seek to withdraw his no-contest plea to the charges, that could result in a full trial and the risk of up to 20 years in jail, if convicted. Letting the sentence stand, however, could lead Indiana authorities to revoke his parole on his prior rape conviction. It could also prompt the Nevada Boxing Commission to once again revoke his license.

As Johnson spoke to a stunned audience, Tyson's second wife, Monica, buried her face in her hands.

Tyson is being held in custody without bail, and can seek to be released on bond on Monday. He was taken to the Montgomery County Detention Center.

Some of the more than 200 people in the courtroom gasped and others sobbed as Johnson read his decision, which came after more than 3 1/2 hours of pre-sentencing arguments and testimony.

Shelley Finkel, Tyson's adviser and manager, who had mapped out a comeback plan for Tyson that included four fights this year, refused to comment. Finkel was one of six witnesses called by two defense lawyers on behalf of Tyson. Earlier, he had said that if Tyson were unable to keep boxing, it would be a ``real death sentence'' for his career.

Tyson had pleaded no contest to the assault charges in December, which means he admitted no guilt.

Tyson attorney Paul Kemp pointed out that no arrests were made at the time of the accident, no one suffered serious injury, and Tyson, in addition to reaching a cash settlement with his two accusers, apologized personally to each.

The two victims, Abimelec Saucedo, 62, and Richard Hardicking, 50, were in the courtroom. Through their lawyers, they expressed a concern that Tyson receive help for his behavioral problems, but neither wanted him to be incarcerated. Weeks ago, each had appealed to the prosecutors to drop the criminal charges.

But Douglas Gansler, Montgomery County state's attorney, said he proceeded ``because it was a crime of violence by a man with a record of criminal violence who is still on probation for a rape conviction.''

Tyson's lawyers, Kemp and Robert Greenberg, argued that Tyson was undergoing psychotherapy, and that he was making ``immense progress.'' Witnesses testified to his recent acts of community service at hospitals, in youth detention centers and homeless shelters. They also cited examples of his financial aid to the poor that included paying for funerals of two poor children.

Kemp also argued that a sentence of even one day would be ruinous to Tyson's boxing career, that it could result in revocation of his probation in Indiana for his rape conviction and even loss of his boxing license.

Tyson reportedly made as much as $25 million for his Jan. 16 knockout comeback victory against South African Francois Botha in Las Vegas. It was his first fight since June 1997, when he bit the ears of Evander Holyfield in a title bout and subsequently lost his license. He was scheduled to fight again on April 14.

Carol Crawford, assistant state's attorney, argued that a loss of Tyson's license in the United States would not mean the end of his career.

``It's a big world,'' she said.

The sentence, said Gansler, who sat through the proceedings without comment, ``sends a message that we don't tolerate violent crime here in Montgomery County. This was a case of road rage, a violent assault against two people.''

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