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Tyson Receives 1-Year Sentence for Assault

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping for a slap on the wrist, Mike Tyson instead was hit with a devastating legal blow Friday in Maryland, one that knocked him back into jail and out of boxing for the foreseeable future.

The former two-time heavyweight champion, 32, was sentenced to a year in jail by a Montgomery County District judge for assaulting two motorists in the wake of a traffic accident last summer. Tyson could be released in six months for good behavior.

Judge Stephen Johnson gave Tyson two concurrent two-year sentences but suspended all but one year. He also fined Tyson $5,000 and sentenced him to two years’ probation after his release.

Tyson “repeatedly speaks and acts compulsively and violently,” Johnson said after a three-hour hearing. “The court views this as a tragic example of potentially lethal road rage.”

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Tyson showed no emotion during the hearing, but his shoulders slumped when the verdict was announced. Denied bail, he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs as his wife, Monica, cried.

And things could get worse for Tyson, who is on probation in Indiana.

Patricia Gifford, the Indiana judge who sentenced Tyson after his 1991 rape conviction, must decide whether he violated his probation, which was to have expired next month. Tyson was released from an Indiana prison in 1995 after serving three years of a six-year sentence. Gifford could decide to send him back to prison after he serves his jail time in Maryland.

“The judge is waiting for her paperwork to come from Maryland,” David Deputy, a bailiff in Gifford’s court, told Associated Press.

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The Nevada State Athletic Commission also could review its decision in October to grant Tyson a boxing license, but even if the commissioners were to do nothing, that license will expire at the end of this year.

“He had a chance here, a chance to straighten out his life,” said John Branca, Tyson’s lead attorney. “The penalty seems unfair if it is going to deprive him of a chance to straighten out.”

Tyson has been unable to stay on a straight path since he left prison.

Still the most compelling figure in his sport, he returned to the ring, won his first four fights, then was beaten by Evander Holyfield in November 1996 in a major upset.

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But nothing was more upsetting than the rematch in June 1997. In the third round, Tyson bit off a piece of one of Holyfield’s ears, then also bit the other ear.

Tyson was disqualified, stripped of his license and fined $3 million.

He spent a year expressing repentance, went through nine hours of hearings before the Nevada Athletic Commission and underwent five days of exhaustive testing by mental-health experts before finally getting his license back.

But before he even went before the Nevada board, Tyson had caused new problems for himself after a minor three-car accident in Gaithersburg, Md., on Aug. 31. A car driven by Tyson’s wife, Monica Turner, with Tyson beside her in the passenger seat, was rear-ended in the collision.

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Tyson, later admitting he was angry that the two other drivers, Abmielec Saucedo and Richard Hardick, failed to express concern for his wife, kicked one in the groin and punched the other in the face.

Saucedo and Hardick settled out of court with Tyson and subsequently recommended that he not be imprisoned.

In December, he pleaded no contest to the criminal assault charge, neither protesting the charges nor admitting guilt.

Although Tyson could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison, Montgomery County State’s Atty. Robert Dean, as part of an agreement based on Tyson’s plea, said he would recommend that Tyson not be jailed.

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But it was not a formal agreement and it was not honored by Douglas Gansler, who succeeded Dean. In a memo to the judge, Gansler called Tyson “nothing less than a time bomb.”

Gansler mentioned Tyson’s rape conviction, seven incidents from Tyson’s juvenile days when he clashed with the law, and the Holyfield fight.

“He went out and beat up people and now he’s going to pay for it,” Gansler said.

A source in Tyson’s legal camp said an appeal will be made Monday or Tuesday, arguing that the sentence was unfair, especially in light of the no-contest plea.

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Tyson could also ask for a jury trial, but that could take months and Tyson still has hopes of returning to the ring.

In his first fight after reacquiring his license, he scored a fifth-round knockout of Francois Botha last month. Tyson looked rusty and was behind on all the judges’ scorecards until he landed the knockout punch.

With his purse, he was able to pay the government $13 million he owed in back taxes.

The fight, however, drew a disappointing crowd at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena and attracted less than half of the pay-per-view audience Tyson drew in his better days.

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* J.A. ADANDE: This isn’t the end of Mike Tyson, merely another sad chapter in his story. D1


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