MESA, Ariz. -- Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson could
have received more than four years in prison when he was sentenced
for cocaine possession and driving under the influence but he
walked out of a courtroom Monday on probation.
Prosecutors had argued that Tyson should be behind bars, given
his violent criminal past. But Superior Court Judge Helene Abrams
said she was impressed with how the boxer has tried to atone
following a Dec. 29 incident in which he was arrested after almost
hitting a sheriff's deputy's vehicle.
"You worked to address your addiction and self-destructive
behavior," Abrams said before sentencing Tyson to three years of
probation for the cocaine charge and one day in jail for the DUI.
Tyson also will have to pay a fine, submit to drug testing and
serve 360 hours of community service.
"I take responsibility for my actions," Tyson, 41, told the
judge. He left the courthouse flanked by his supporters, lit a
cigar and drove away in the back of a black Mercedes.
He will begin serving time Tuesday morning in Tent City,
Maricopa County's infamous open-air jail near a dog pound and a
trash dump. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a written statement that
Tyson will wear the standard-issue pink underwear and
black-and-white striped uniform. He'll stay in an unoccupied area,
apart from Tent City's 1,500 other inmates.
Tyson visited juvenile inmates in Tent City in 1999, telling
them to stay out of trouble. "Apparently he didn't listen to his
own advice," Arpaio said.
Tyson, who used to live in Paradise Valley, Ariz., was spotted
driving erratically last year after leaving Scottsdale's Pussycat
Lounge. An officer said he saw Tyson wiping a white substance off
the dashboard of his black BMW, and that his speech was slurred.
Police found bags of cocaine in his pocket and in the car.
Tyson told officers later that he used cocaine "whenever I can
get my hands on it," and that he preferred to smoke it in Marlboro
cigarettes with the tobacco pulled out, according to court
documents. He also told police that he used marijuana that day and
was taking the antidepressant Zoloft, the documents state.
In September, Tyson pleaded guilty to a single felony count of
cocaine possession and a misdemeanor DUI count.
Prosecutor Shane Krauser had recommended one year in prison
Monday, saying that Tyson was a multiple offender who previously
had been convicted of a violent crime and that only now has he
sought treatment for his drug addiction.
He pointed out that Tyson was convicted of rape in Indiana in
1992 and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault charges in
Maryland in 1999.
"Judge, by my calculations, this is his fourth or fifth
chance," Krauser said.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas said he was disappointed by the
sentence. "His intentional criminal conduct seriously endangered
the public," Thomas said in a written statement.
Since his arrest, Tyson checked himself into an inpatient
treatment program in California for what his lawyer called
"various addictions." Attorney David Chesnoff has described the
Dec. 29 arrest as a victimless crime that hurt only Tyson.
In court, Chesnoff said his client had taken 29 drug tests
without a relapse since his arrest and that he's attended
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He told
Abrams that Tyson had become an example of how one overcomes
problems with drugs, a violent past and poor upbringing.
"He's tried his hardest despite coming from almost impossible
beginnings," Chesnoff said.
Numerous supporters of Tyson joined him in court Monday,
including Tyson's former wife, Monica Turner, and people who worked
at the California drug treatment clinic, Chesnoff said.
In 1986, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in
history when, at 20, he knocked out Trevor Berbick. He lost his
title four years later when he was knocked out by James "Buster"
Douglas. By 1997, Tyson's career hit a low point when he bit
Evander Holyfield's ear during a fight.
Tyson recently had been trying to revive his career with a
series of boxing exhibitions.