Retro Indy: Mike Tyson convicted of rape at Indianapolis hotel in 1991

Retro Indy: Mike Tyson convicted of rape at Indianapolis hotel in 1991

Indianapolis Star Published 8:03 a.m. ET Feb. 10, 2014 | Updated 6:40 p.m. ET June 2, 2021


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Editor’s note: This story initially published in February 2014.

Former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson served three years in an Indiana prison for the 1991 rape of Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America pageant contestant.

Tyson came to Indianapolis on July 17, 1991, for Indiana Black Expo at the invitation of Expo President Charles Williams. The following day, Tyson met Washington at the Omni Severin Hotel, where she and other Miss Black America contestants were rehearsing for the pageant. He asked her out on a date, and she gave him her hotel phone number.

At about 1:45 a.m. on July 19, Tyson called Washington and convinced her to meet him that night. She was driven to the Canterbury Hotel in a rented limousine. Tyson said he needed to stop at his room, and Washington accompanied him to room 606.

New location: Entire Canterbury Hotel bar moved

According to later testimony, Tyson then sexually assaulted her.

Washington left the Canterbury about 3 a.m. and was driven back to the Omni. At 4:15 a.m. Tyson and his bodyguard left the hotel and departed for Cleveland.

On July 20, Washington told her parents that Tyson raped her. She was taken to Methodist Hospital, and at 2:52 a.m. the following day she reported the assault to Indianapolis police. On July 22, Washington filed a formal complaint.

A special Marion County grand jury began a hearing on Aug. 16, during which they interviewed 36 witnesses and, on Sept. 9, returned a four-count indictment.

Tyson appeared before Judge Patricia Gifford on Sept. 11, to plead not guilty. He was released on $30,000 bond with a trial date of Jan. 27, 1992.

Tyson’s trial ran from Jan. 27 to Feb. 10. After deliberating nine hours and 20 minutes, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on one count of rape and two counts of criminal deviate conduct. Prosecutors dropped a charge of confinement on Feb. 4. Special prosecutor J. Gregory Garrison led the prosecution team. Tyson’s defense attorneys were Vincent J. Fuller of Washington, D.C., and James H. Voyles Jr. of Indianapolis.

The identity of Washington remained confidential during the trial, but after Tyson was convicted, she chose to go public. Her photo appeared on the cover of People magazine, and she was interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20. During that interview, she claimed to have been offered $1 million to drop the charges. Washington later filed a civil suit against Tyson; it was settled out of court.

On March 26, 1992, Tyson was sentenced by Gifford to 10 years on each of the three counts, with four years suspended and the sentences to run concurrently — for a total of six years in prison. Gifford also fined Tyson $30,000, the maximum fine allowed by law. He was also ordered to serve four years of probation after his release. The terms of his probation included psychotherapy and 100 hours of community service. Tyson, who was not permitted to post bond pending an appeal, was taken into custody immediately following the sentencing. Tyson served his time at the Indiana Youth Center, a high-medium security facility west of Indianapolis. It eventually changed its name to the Plainfield Correctional Facility.

Tyson hired Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor whom Time magazine once called “the top lawyer of last resort in the country,” to handle his appeal. The appeal went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to review his conviction in March 1994. In November 1994, Tyson withdrew his appeal saying he would serve the last six months of his sentence.

Indiana’s prison commissioner decided in February 1995 that Tyson had become a model prisoner and should be credited with all of the good-behavior time he had coming, despite a disciplinary problem in May of 1992 when he threatened a guard. Tyson was released from prison on March 25, 1995.

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Published at Wed, 02 Jun 2021 22:40:58 +0000