July 19

This Day in History

Crime

Jul 19, 1991:

Mike Tyson rapes a Miss Black America contestant

Notorious boxer Mike Tyson rapes Desiree Washington, a contestant in the Miss Black America pageant, in an Indianapolis, Indiana, hotel room. At a time when the issue of date rape was entering the country's consciousness, Tyson's attack became a national sensation.

Tyson, who had lost his heavyweight title in February 1990 to James "Buster" Douglas, was preparing for a chance to win it back later in the year. However, Tyson's behavior had become increasingly erratic. His marriage to Robin Givens had fallen apart amid accusations of domestic violence. Furthermore, there were multiple reports that Tyson was known for unwanted, crude, and sometimes violent advances toward women wherever he went.

Tyson attended the Miss Black America pageant in Indianapolis to lend his celebrity to the event. At a photo opportunity with the contestants, Tyson flirted with the women by grabbing and hugging them. Later, several women would testify that Tyson had made disgusting propositions to them. Still, the boxer impressed Desiree Washington, a college student from Rhode Island.

After attending a Johnny Gill concert that night, Tyson found himself without a date. He called Washington and convinced her to join him so that they could talk and get to know one another. At his hotel, Washington agreed to accompany Tyson to his room so that he could pick up something he claimed to have left in his room. Surprising her as she came out of the bathroom, Tyson pinned Washington to the bed, telling her to relax as he forced himself upon her. Washington left the room alone about 30 minutes after arriving. A hospital medical examination was conducted and found to be consistent with Washington's account. Tyson claimed that the sexual encounter was purely consensual and that Washington had made the story up for money and because she was angry that Tyson had not walked her down to his limousine.

On February 10, 1992, Tyson was convicted of rape. At his sentencing hearing, the remorseless Tyson railed about his own social "humiliation" and received a six-year sentence. Even an appeal by the famous attorney Alan Dershowitz could not get Tyson a new trial.

After his release in 1995, Tyson became even more paranoid and out of control. In June 1997, Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match, for which his boxing license was revoked. In a 1999 interview, Tyson maintained that he would bite off his opponent's ear if the situation arose again. Despite these comments, Tyson was granted a reinstatement of his boxing license. Although Tyson continued to fight, he never regained his previous dominance. He declared bankruptcy in 2003 and retired two years later, in June 2005, after losing three of his last four fights.

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