Articles

Crime File: Mike Tyson

The world champion boxer was convicted of rape in the early 1990s - a charge which he denies to this day.

Rise to Fame

Born June the 30th 1966 in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Gerard Tyson had a hard, and some would say tragic, early life. His step-father left his mother and the children to fend for themselves soon after Michael, the youngest of there was born. Tyson grew up in a very rough neighbourhood where being an overweight kid with glasses, a lisp, high voice, and a passion for keeping racing pigeons got him into a lot of fights. Tyson told interviewers recently that the age of seven he was snatched from the street and sexually assaulted by an “old man” - a stranger to the young boy.

By the time he was a teen Tyson was a violent petty criminal, often in trouble with the police. Tyson's emerging boxing ability was discovered by Bobby Stewart, a juvenile detention centre counsellor and former boxer. Stewart considered Tyson to be an outstanding fighter and trained him for a few months before introducing him to Cus D'Amato. Tyson's mother died in 1982, and D'Amato became the legal guardian of the then sixteen-year-old. He won gold medals at the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympic Games, and made his professional debut on March the 6th 1985, in Albany, New York. The eighteen-year-old Tyson defeated opponent Hector Mercedes, knocking him out in the first round.

In November 1986 Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of professional boxing. By 1988 Mike Tyson was the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, and one of the most famous sportsmen on the planet. Yet, in the years that followed, fame and fortune seemed to sour. Tyson's marriage to actress and model Robin Simone Givens lasted only a year, she described their relationship in an interview at the time as "torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine". There were allegations that Tyson was violent and abusive. Meanwhile, his managerial contract was being fought over by Don King and Bill Cayton. Then, in February 1990, Tyson lost the undisputed championship to Buster Douglas in Tokyo.

The Rape of Desiree Washington

In 1991 Mike Tyson attended the Miss Black America pageant in Indianapolis. While there it later emerged that Tyson groped and propositioned many of the contestants. Eighteen-year-old Desiree Washington was not one of the women he abused that evening, and the pair chatted long enough for Tyson to ask for the young model's phone number.

At 1:36 am the following morning, Desiree Washington received a phone call from Tyson inviting her to a party he said he was attending. Meeting at Tyson's hotel, the boxer claimed he'd left something in his room and asked Washington to accompany him upstairs. In the hotel room Desiree Washington went into the bathroom. When she emerged Tyson grabbed her, held her down on the bed and raped her. After a half hour ordeal, Washington left the hotel and got into a waiting limousine. Tyson's chauffeur, Virginia Foster, later confirmed Desiree Washington's state of shock as she drove her home after the incident. Twenty four hours later, Washington attended a hospital emergency room where she was examined by Dr. Thomas Richardson who later testified that her physical condition was consistent with rape.  

After deliberating for nearly ten hours a jury convicted Tyson of rape on February the 10th 1992, and on March the 26th Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison followed by four years on probation. Alan Dershowitz, acting as Tyson's counsel, later filed an appeal on Tyson’s behalf, claiming that Washington had, on at least one other occasion, made a false accusation of rape and that the trial judge had blocked the testimony of several witnesses who could refute Washington’s claims. Tyson lost the appeal.

Despite being twenty-five years old at the time of the crime, Tyson was assigned to the Indiana Youth Centre in April 1992.

Mike Tyson was released in March 1995 after serving less than three years of his six-year sentence. Due to his conviction, Tyson is required to register as a tier II sex offender under federal law.

Aftermath

Following his release Tyson has maintained that the accusation of rape was a false one and that sex between himself and Desiree Washington was consensual. He has claimed that she made the allegations after being unhappy that he hadn't walked her down to her car that night.

A Los Angeles Times article dated the 31st of March 1995 described the effect Tyson's early release was having on his victim. “Desiree Washington stays with her mother in a cramped, upstairs apartment in a working-class neighborhood in East Providence, R.I. Once, she and her family owned a cozy, ranch-style home with a swimming pool and a deck in a small town south of Providence. Washington was the darling of Coventry High School, the girl voted the friendliest and most talkative in her senior class. That was before Mike Tyson. Before the rape. Since then, the 22-year-old former beauty queen's life has been in turmoil".

Following his release, Tyson made a comeback in boxing only to be banned from the sport for two years 1997 after biting off a piece of his opponent Evander Holyfield's ear during a match. He was also fined $3 million and ordered to pay all legal costs. Follwing yet another comeback, Tyson eventually retired from boxes in 2005, following (unrelated) drug charges.

In 2006 Tyson was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, he became an alcoholic and was reported to be on the verge of death as a result of the addiction in 2012.  In December 2013, during an interview with Fox News, Tyson talked about his progress with sobriety and how being in the company of good people has made him want to be a better and more humble person. 

Crime + Investigation Podcast

Listen to the brand new Crime + Investigation Podcast.

Listen Now

The First 48

It's a race against time in the acclaimed series.

Weeknights at 11pm

Crimes That Shook Australia

Tragedy down under.

Find out more