Guest Author - Donna Johnson
On July 19, 1991, boxer Mike Tyson attended the Miss Black America pageant in Indianapolis, IN. By the time the night was over, he would be accused of raping one of the contestants, a charge that would lead to legal and financial repercussions for him.
Mike Tyson was born on June 30, 1966, in Brooklyn, NY. Following an early childhood riddled with minor crimes, he landed in reform school, where he was found to have a natural talent for boxing. Cus D’Amato, who became Tyson’s guardian upon his mother’s death, began training the young man for a boxing career. Following a short stint in the amateur circuit and gold medal wins in the Junior Olympics, Tyson went pro in 1985.
After defeating boxers such as Michael Spinks and Carl “The Truth” Williams and marrying Head of the Class star Robin Givens, Tyson became a celebrity. In 1991, he was invited to attend the Miss Black America beauty pageant in Indianapolis, IN, an offer that he accepted.
At events publicizing the pageant, Tyson mingled with the contestants, some of whom would report that he made unwanted and crude advances to them. Eighteen-year-old Desiree Washington, the representative from Rhode Island, caught Tyson’s eye. The boxer invited her for a night out, convincing her to go to his hotel room with him to retrieve something he forgot.
Once in the room, Washington later testified, Tyson overpowered and raped her. Tyson denied the allegations, stating that Washington was just after money. The boxer did not deny that the two had sex, but stated that it was consensual and that Washington was also upset that he did not escort her to his limo after their tryst. Washington’s version of events was backed up by physical evidence and the testimony of both the doctor who examined her after the assault and Tyson’s limo driver, who testified to Washington’s demeanor on the ride back to the contestant’s hotel. Tyson was indicted on four charges, including rape, on September 9, 1991.
On February 10, 1992, a jury found Tyson guilty of one count each of rape and deviant sexual conduct. The following month, the boxer was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with four years suspended. Tyson tried unsuccessfully to appeal his conviction, claiming that defense witnesses were suppressed. He also accused Washington of making false rape claims in the past and of offering to drop the charges in exchange for $1 million. Just under three years later, Tyson was released.
Since his release, Tyson has stirred up controversy on several occasions. In regards to the Washington case, Tyson made waves in 2003 when he told a reporter for Fox television that he did not rape Washington in 1991. But, Tyson added, now he did “…want to rape her and her f-ing mama.”
Tyson’s boxing career also declined after he bit off a chunk of opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear during a 1997 match. As with the Washington case, Tyson later raised eyebrows in an interview, this time in 1999, when he said that given the chance, he would bite Holyfield’s whole ear off.
The boxer retired from competing in 2005, two years after filing bankruptcy. Online speculation about the whereabouts of Desiree Washington twenty years after the rape case appears to be just that-speculation. At least one candidate put forth as possibly being Washington does not overly resemble the pageant contestant and is reportedly the wrong age to be her in any case. Washington settled her civil suit against Tyson in 1995 and seems to have disappeared from the public eye.