Tyson's behavior in the hours before the alleged rape has also come under scrutiny because of two civil suits brought against him alleging that he sexually harassed a number of other contestants in the Miss Black America pageant (SI, Sept. 9). Last week Jeffrey Modisett, the Marion County prosecutor, said, "It is quite possible that other aspects of [Tyson's] behavior will become very relevant in the case."
Would the NFL let a Tyson perform in its games with a rape accusation hanging over his head? Would any league? Would a police department let an officer Tyson keep working? No sooner was Pee-wee Herman arrested—arrested, not convicted—in July on misdemeanor public indecency charges, than CBS canceled reruns of his show. But as John Weistart, a Duke law professor who specializes in legal issues involving sports, notes, the Holyfield-Tyson fight stands to produce an enormous onetime windfall, and the entities involved in it "need Tyson for this event to happen."
Tyson is aggressively confronting the charges against him, helped not only by King but also by a formidable legal team headed by Vincent Fuller, one of the most renowned criminal lawyers in the United States. On Sept. 11 Tyson, accompanied by King and Fuller, arrived in Indianapolis to plead not guilty to the charges against him. Bail was set at $30,000. Tyson and King then held a press conference at which Tyson declared his innocence. "I didn't hurt the woman," he said. "I love women; I mean, my mother's a woman."
During the course of the press conference Tyson and King both mentioned the victim's name several times—King bellowing it emphatically. When reporters asked King why he was identifying the young woman, he replied that Tyson was the victim, not the woman, and added, "Why should he [Tyson] be beleaguered when she can throw a rock and go hide? Ain't nothin' sanctimonious about [Tyson's accuser]. Let her face a band of you guys, and you ask her, 'What were you doing in the man's bedroom at two in the morning?' "
When CNN's Nick Charles asked Tyson later that day what he might learn from this whole episode, a glum-faced Tyson said, "To separate yourself from the riffraff around you."
The woman who has accused Tyson of raping her is hardly riffraff. She is a freshman at a New England college who has been an overachiever. Two years ago a local newspaper ran a lengthy article about her after she won a beauty pageant in her hometown. The story began by saying that she was not "just another pretty face" and added that she had won an international youth leadership award—one of only 200 students in the world so honored. She had also won citizenship awards during each of her six grammar school years and was a standout student, an athlete and an officer of the usher board at her church. The newspaper reported that she planned to attend law school and hoped to become either a corporate lawyer or a sports lawyer, representing professional athletes.
"I wouldn't want to be a criminal lawyer," the young woman told the newspaper. "If I knew someone was wrong I'm not sure I'd want to defend them." She explained that entering the local pageant was a special challenge for her because her town—and the pageant—had very few minorities. She told the paper that when she won the contest, she said, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., your dream is coming true." According to the article, when the young woman was announced as the winner of the local pageant, she was introduced as "the first black woman president of the United States."
What this woman was doing in Tyson's bedroom at 2 a.m. will be up to a jury to assess. But, despite what King insinuates, a woman can be anywhere she wants at 2 a.m., and a "no" still legally suffices as a clear signal that the woman is not consenting to sex. King and some of Tyson's other apologists have also implied that the fighter's accuser is looking to make a buck or get some ink at his expense. But in fact, the complainant in the rape case has scrupulously avoided the limelight—as King acknowledges when he accuses her of hiding—and she has refused several substantial offers for her story from tabloids and TV magazine shows.
What she is doing now is attending classes and, says Ed Ger-stein, one of her lawyers, receiving counseling to help her deal with the trauma he says she has suffered.
Tyson's team has already won Round 1 of his battle against the prosecutors in the rape case. Just before King and Tyson leveled their verbal assault on the woman in the Indianapolis press conference, Tyson's lawyers asked for a gag order against attorneys on both sides, and last Friday they got it. Clever. After King's inflammatory performance in the very shadow of her courthouse, how could a thoroughly irritated judge Patricia Gif-ford not issue the order? Of course, King, who is neither a defendant, a witness nor an attorney, is not covered by the gag order. So guess who has the last word?