For the two years since agents from the FBI and the IRS staged a highly publicized raid on Don King's New York City office and were videotaped hauling away documents by the cartonload, observers in the boxing community had been expecting the controversial promoter to be hit with a broad range of hair-raising charges. Thus, last week's announcement that a federal grand jury in Manhattan had indicted King for an alleged $350,000 insurance scam elicited a resounding "Is that all?"
But the charges, while limited in scope, are serious. According to the nine-count indictment, King devised a scheme to defraud Lloyds of London of $350,000 after a scheduled June 1991 King-promoted fight between Julio César Chávez and Harold Brazier was canceled because Chávez sustained a cut while sparring. The feds charge that King submitted a bogus insurance claim to Lloyds, which had issued him a $750,000 policy covering losses in the event one of the fighters failed to appear or the fight was canceled for other reasons. King allegedly drew up a phony version of the contract between him and Chávez and claimed he had paid the boxer $350,000 in nonrefundable training expenses. According to the indictment, King then submitted the fake contract and bogus expenses to Lloyds. The government says that King never paid Chávez the $350,000, either during his training or after Lloyds paid the claim.
If convicted, King could spend five years in federal prison and owe the government $2.25 million. In a written statement issued last week, King declared, "I am completely innocent. I have done nothing to warrant this action.... I will be cleared."
It wouldn't be the first time. King, who served four years in an Ohio prison for manslaughter (he was pardoned in 1983 by then-Governor James Rhodes), has been the subject of at least two other grand juries, which failed to indict him, and in 1985 was acquitted of federal charges of tax evasion.
The question arises, then, whether the government this time settled for a lesser charge with a greater chance of conviction. "They want a simple, straightforward trial that won't give him any opportunity to counterpunch," says one well-informed source. "The idea is for prosecutors to land a lot of left jabs and finish with a right cross so that King is down and out in the first round, with no chance to come back."
NBA free agents Danny Manning and Horace Grant face some impossible choices. A court decision handed down Monday in New York City leaves Manning, Grant and 114 other free agents caught in a legal jumble that would baffle most law professors.
The ruling by U.S. District Court judge Kevin Duffy preserved the NBA's salary cap and college draft, at least for now. Duffy told NBA players they could not challenge the cap or the draft in court until they decertify their union (Duffy ruled a labor union cannot sue management for antitrust violations; only individual members of the union can sue after the union decertifies), the same lengthy litigation process the NFL players' union used in its successful attempt to bring free agency to pro football. Charles Grantham, executive director of the NBA union, says he will appeal Duffy's ruling and hopes for a quick reversal.
But where does that leave the Atlanta Hawks' Manning or the Chicago Bulls' Grant? Should they try to cut the best deal possible under the prevailing restrictions of the salary cap? Should they hold out, hoping that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn Duffy's decision within the next couple of months, thereby allowing them to auction their services to the highest bidder without any cap? Or should they and others file individual antitrust lawsuits, the kind that ultimately made wealthy men of NFL stars like Reggie White and Keith Jackson?