Tale of the Tapes
Are federal prosecutors using a leading U.S. clergyman to build a case against boxing promoter Don King? It sure looks that way. Last year, in the weeks preceding former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's rape conviction, the FBI taped the Reverend T.J. Jemison, head of the eight-million-member National Baptist Convention USA, allegedly offering $1 million to Donald Washington to persuade his daughter, Desiree, to drop charges against Tyson. Tyson, of course, was managed by King.
The recordings are the government's strongest evidence against Jemison, who was indicted for perjury last July in Lafayette, La., after having denied under oath that he offered Donald Washington money. With Jemison's trial set for May 3, government lawyers could use the prospect of a conviction to press Jemison for details about the source of the alleged $1 million offer, in the hope that the money trail leads to his pal King. If it does, King, already the target of a federal grand-jury probe in New York City, could then face a federal obstruction of justice charge.
The feds began pursuing Jemison in November 1991 after Donald Washington informed the FBI that Jemison and other Baptist ministers had repeatedly called him in an effort to get him to persuade his daughter to drop her charges against Tyson. With Washington's consent, the FBI recorded six calls between him and Jemison in the weeks leading up to Tyson's January 1992 trial. In addition, on Dec. 13, while wearing a hidden microphone, he met with Jemison and other ministers in a Newport, R.I., hotel room. Sources who have read the FBI's report of that meeting told SI's Lester Munson that Jemison offered Washington $250,000, $500,000 and, finally, $1 million if Desiree would drop the rape charges. And according to transcripts included in Jemison's indictment, during a Dec. 30, 1991, phone conversation, Jemison told Washington, "If I could be Desiree for a minute, I, I'd be most happy to accept an offer of, say, between five hundred, nine hundred thousand and get it over with."
Armed with the tapes, prosecutors confronted Jemison when he appeared in a Lafayette federal courtroom last June as a character witness in an unrelated criminal case. After cross examining Jemison about the defendant in the trial, the government's lawyer—in a highly unusual move—quizzed him about his conversations with Donald Washington. As he did on the stand, Jemison admits to having talked with Washington about keeping the Tyson case out of court, but he maintains that he wasn't acting on behalf of Tyson or King. And despite the tapes, he still says he didn't mention money.
Whether the tapes lead to the conviction of Jemison or anyone else, they have exposed the clandestine efforts of Jemison and other Tyson sympathizers to block Tyson's trial. With an appeal decision imminent, the tapes have also dealt a blow to Tyson's lawyers, who based their defense and appeal, in part, on the theory that Desiree Washington lied about the rape in the hope of extorting money from Tyson. That contention seems groundless in light of the fact that the Washingtons, despite an alleged offer of $1 million to drop the charges, chose to take the case to court.
In one afternoon John Ed Anthony, the owner of Loblolly Stable, saw four of his Kentucky Derby aspirants fail—two in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and two in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Loblolly colts Marked Tree and Ozan went off as cofavorites in last Saturday's Wood. Marked Tree, who had won the Remington Park Derby on April 3, could muster no more than a halfhearted run in the homestretch and finished third, half a length behind the winner, Storm Tower. Ozan struggled home in sixth place.
Thirty minutes later, under a steady Arkansas rain, Anthony watched as favored Dalhart, the horse many observers considered Loblolly's strongest, stopped running in the stretch and wound up ninth, nine lengths behind winner Rockamundo, a 108-1 long shot. Dalhart's touted stablemate Over Jack Mountain wound up seventh.
Until last Saturday, Anthony figured to have at least three horses running in the Kentucky Derby—an entry that was being billed as the most formidable from one stable since Calumet Farm's duo of Citation and Coaltown in 1948. Now it seems all his hopes must ride on Prairie Bayou, whose victory in the Blue Grass Stakes two weeks ago (SI, April 19) might yet make him the favorite at Churchill Downs.
Pro sports teams often give tickets to students who earn straight A's. Last Saturday the Denver Nuggets worked a more meaningful trade: They swapped tickets for guns. In the promotion, dubbed Operation Cease Fire, anyone turning in a gun at one of four area churches received a pair of tickets to this Sunday's Nugget-Phoenix Sun game. While not everyone applauded the program—National Rifle Association rep George Nyfeler told the Rocky Mountain News, "[It's a] feel-good, do-nothing activity. People who would give up a gun for groceries, money or tickets to basketball games...[are] not going to use that gun in a crime anyway"—the Nuggets insisted it was not just a publicity gimmick. "Twelve kids die every day from gunshot wounds in this country," said Nugget president Tim Leiweke. "If we get one gun, it's been successful."