Originally created 02/12/99

While confusion abounds, Tyson collects his fan mail



WASHINGTON -- Mike Tyson's lawyers were hoping Indiana would make the next move. Indiana authorities say they're waiting for Tyson's lawyers to act.

Amid the confusion, the former heavyweight champion remains in a county jail, where hundreds of well-wishers have sent him letters and gifts, including money to help pay off his debts.

The uncertainty increased Thursday when George Walker, Tyson's probation officer in Indiana, said that officials there are in a "wait-and-see" mode concerning the 32-year-old boxer's one-year sentence for assaulting two motorists after a minor traffic accident in Gaithersburg, Md., in August.

Tyson, who pleaded no contest to the charges, was sentenced last Friday.

"We had a case conference a couple days ago where we took into consideration the fact Tyson could appeal the sentencing in Maryland," Walker said. "So given that situation, we once again have taken a wait-and-see posture for the next couple weeks to see if in fact he does appeal."

Tyson is on probation in Indiana for raping a beauty pageant contestant in an Indianapolis hotel room in 1991. Tyson served three years in prison and was released in March 1995.

"If he does not appeal, then we'll set a hearing here locally and move forward on that," Walker said.

Walker's words left Robert Greenberg, one of Tyson's Maryland lawyers, almost speechless. An hour or so earlier, Greenberg had said he was considering two options for Tyson, but that he needed "to get a better sense of what will happen in Indiana before any decision is made."

When told that Indiana would be waiting for him, Greenberg appeared surprised.

"I don't want to comment on that," he said. "I have to take a look at this first."

The news from Indiana means Greenberg and fellow lawyer Paul Kemp will apparently have less information than they hoped as they consider their two options: appealing the sentence or asking the judge to reconsider it.

Time is the biggest constraint. Tyson has 90 days to ask Judge Stephen Johnson to reconsider his sentence, but only 30 days to file an appeal -- which would take the case out of Johnson's jurisdiction.

An appeal could also result in a jury trial. If convicted, Tyson could get a harsher sentence and further increase his chances of more punishment in Indiana.

Meanwhile, Greenberg said he also has concerns over the possibility of Tyson resuming his boxing career while serving his sentence. The scenario, if there is no appeal and Indiana takes no action, would involve Tyson transferring after 60 days to a pre-release center, where he could leave during the day to train at a gym and return at night. Tyson, with Johnson's permission, could also travel out of state to fight.

Greenberg said Tyson has received hundreds of letters and gifts, including money and food, at the Montgomery County jail, and that similar distractions could make it difficult for Tyson to train while serving at the less secure pre-release center.

Witnesses at Tyson's sentencing hearing testified that the fighter had $20 million in debts, mostly to the IRS, and would need to fight three or four more times this year to pay them off.

The prospect of Tyson fighting while an inmate becomes moot if Judge Patricia Gifford, who sentenced the fighter for the rape conviction in Indiana, takes action that would preclude Tyson's transfer to the pre-release center. Walker said he has not indicated to the judge whether he thinks Tyson should serve more time in Indiana.

"That's not my decision. I wouldn't even say it's my recommendation," he said. "In fact, I don't know particularly right now what my recommendation would be."

Walker said he would make a recommendation only if Gifford requests one.

Tyson's probation was scheduled to expire in March. If there is no appeal and Gifford schedules a probation hearing in Indianapolis, the expiration of Tyson's probation would be suspended until the matter is settled, Walker said.

Indiana authorities also reviewed the probation -- but took no action -- after Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ears during a title bout in June 1997. The Nevada Athletic Commission stripped Tyson of his boxing license for one year, and reinstated him in October.