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A NEW HURDLE FOR MOSES
After dwelling for several years in undeserved obscurity, Edwin Moses has recently become a full-fledged athletic hero. Unbeaten in the 400-meter hurdles for more than seven years, Moses has also gained stature from his public stands against shamateurism and drug use in track and field, as well as from the grace and dignity with which he has comported himself. But last week Moses, SI's 1984 Sportsman of the Year, faced an unexpected hurdle: a misdemeanor charge by the Los Angeles city attorney of soliciting an act of prostitution from an undercover policewoman.
The incident that got Moses in trouble occurred at 3:15 a.m. on Jan. 13 at Genesee Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, a Hollywood intersection frequented by prostitutes. Moses was arrested as part of a vice detail's sweep of the area after he allegedly propositioned an undercover policewoman who was wearing a microphone that allowed their conversation to be monitored by other officers in a nearby squad car. Police said they subsequently found a film cannister in Moses's 1985 Mercedes containing "less than one-half ounce" of marijuana. A spokesman for the city attorney said that because the quantity was small, Moses would not be charged with possession of marijuana, also a misdemeanor.
At a press conference two days after his arrest, Moses issued a brief statement declaring his innocence. After stating that he was "truly mortified" by his arrest, Moses said, "You can be sure I will fight these charges of any misconduct, and I know that I have done nothing wrong." One of Moses's lawyers, Edward Medvene, said that Moses would plead not guilty at an arraignment this week. Earlier Gordon Baskin, Moses's agent, gave what he said was his client's version of the incident. Moses had had "a painful argument" with his wife, Myrella, a few days earlier and had spent the afternoon of Jan. 12 attending a meeting in L.A. of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Athletes Advisory Council, of which he is a member. Later he'd gone to a restaurant and a discotheque with other council members. At about midnight he went alone to a second discotheque and then, Baskin said, drove to an all-night bookstore. As he pulled his car, whose license plates read OLYMPYN, up to a stop sign at Genesee and Sunset, a woman waved at him. Then the woman approached, and this exchange occurred:
Moses drove off and was arrested a block and a half away by two officers from a squad car and a motorcycle policeman. According to Baskin, Moses had merely been bantering with the woman, didn't intend to have sex with her, didn't turn the corner as she suggested and, in fact, was traveling in a different direction when he was stopped. Baskin said that Moses never uses marijuana and speculated that the cannister found in the car had been left there either by friends or parking attendants who'd been in the auto in the immediate past. Baskin insisted that Moses had been guilty only of "poor judgment" in exchanging suggestive sallies with the woman.
The assertions that the woman waved and that she raised the subject of money could presage a claim by Moses that he was the victim of police entrapment. However, L.A. police commander William Booth said that the policewoman had "absolutely not" initiated the contact between herself and Moses. Booth also said that police have "a verbatim transcript" of their conversation.
Even if Moses is exonerated of the charge, his heretofore shining image has been undeniably sullied. Dismissal of the charge against him or his acquittal wouldn't receive the headlines that his arrest did. Moreover, he'll apparently have no opportunity to clear his name about the marijuana found in his car. All of which is unfortunate—and not just for Moses. There are too few genuine sports heroes around these days, one problem being that athletes tend to be seen by the public in absolute terms, either as heroes or bums. If nothing else, Moses's arrest reminds us that most of them actually are somewhere in between. On the basis of what is known about his case so far, Moses still appears to be closer to the former than the latter.
A DIFFERENCE OF 0.31646%