Mike Tyson goes to prison, but his lawyers appeal
Strange to say, last Thursday, the day he went to prison for rape, was not an altogether bleak one for Mike Tyson. For one thing, the six-year sentence that Superior Court Judge Patricia Gifford imposed on Tyson in Indianapolis was less than he had expected. For another, the prosecution's ablest lawyer, Greg Garrison, was no longer handling the case. And no sooner did Gifford pronounce sentence than Tyson's new attorney, Alan Dershowitz, the high-profile Harvard Law professor, launched an appeal process that may yet free the former heavyweight champion.
Tyson's lawyers had told him to be happy with a jail term of anything less than 10 years, and the boxer reacted with equanimity even after Gifford announced that he would have to begin his sentence immediately, rebuffing defense pleas that he be freed pending appeal.
Gifford imposed the sentence, which was well below the average she has meted out to others convicted of similar rapes, after listening to Tyson deliver a rambling 12-minute discourse. He told Gifford that the accuser, Desiree Washington, had lied about what happened in his hotel room last July 19 and that he had been "crucified" during the trial that ended on Feb. 10. It was not the script Tyson's lawyers had prepared, but his presentation apparently didn't hurt him. With good behavior Tyson could be out of jail in three years, when he will be 28 years old.
The effect of Garrison's exit from the case—he does not do appeals—was apparent the day after the sentencing, during a hearing to decide whether Tyson should be released on an appeal bond. Moments after prosecutor David Dreyer had told the court, "I know more about this case than anyone," appellate justice John Baker asked him if Gifford had held a hearing on whether three defense witnesses would be allowed to testify. "I do not know," Dreyer responded. "I was not in court that day." In fact, Gifford had held a hearing that lasted nearly an hour.
Dershowitz, who most recently fought a losing appeals battle for Leona Helmsley, may be in the right place this time. Gifford has been reversed five of the last 10 times her cases have been reviewed, and the prosecution now seems to be struggling.—LESTER MUNSON