INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Tyson was booked for rape and proclaimed his innocence yesterday. He was photographed and fingerprinted by deputies, and then encircled by reporters and technicians carrying minicams. He remained expressionless during a four-minute hearing before a judge in Marion County Superior Court, but smiled, shook hands and gave a thumbs-up to fans after an 80-minute news conference at a downtown hotel.
"I thank God everything is OK," Tyson said. "The situation that occurred is totally ridiculous. I didn't hurt anyone. I love women. My mother is a woman. I respect them [women] as well. Unfortunately, every time I get involved with one, something always happens."
Tyson came back to Indiana facing a legal crossroads. Yet he turned an arraignment into a promotion for his Nov. 8 heavyweight championship fight against Evander Holyfield. Tyson couldreceive a maximum penalty of 63 years in jail if convicted of all charges of rape, criminal deviate conduct and confinement stemming from an alleged July 19 assault of an 18-year-old contestant in the Miss Black America pageant.
"I didn't hurt anyone," he said. "I'm extremely worried about the situation, but I know I'm innocent."
Tyson, who had been training in Las Vegas, arrived at Indianapolis International Airport at 5:30 a.m. yesterday and told reporters: "Right now, it's a travesty. I'm going to prove I'm innocent."
Tyson wore black loafers, a charcoal gray suit, white shirt and red tie, and arrived two minutes early for his 8:30 a.m. hearing. He entered the city-county office building through a side door and avoided a dozen members of a local chapter of the Guardian Angels who were picketing and chanting: "Do the right thing, postpone the fight."
The hearing -- which was packed with media, spectators and county workers -- lasted one minute longer than a fight round. Tyson, 25, was flanked by his attorneys, Vincent J. Fuller and James Hugh Voyles, who later posted a $30,000 bond. A plea of innocent was entered on behalf of Tyson on all four counts.
Judge Patricia J. Gifford scheduled a pre-trial conference for Jan. 8, with the trial to begin Jan. 27. The dates ensured that Tyson could proceed with his scheduled fight against Holyfield in Las Vegas.
"Why shouldn't I be able to fight?" Tyson said. "This is how I earn my living."
While Tyson was being escorted from the courtroom by seven deputies, fight promoter Don King was busy in the lobby launching a defense of the fighter. King's voice echoed in the corridor as dozens of workers stopped, stared and listened.
King said Tyson was the victim of "economic rape" by his estranged manager, Bill Cayton, who is getting 20 percent of Tyson's purses until their contract expires in February. He quoted from "Cyrano de Bergerac." He said Tyson was trying to handle the burdens of fame that eventually overwhelmed dead celebrities ranging from Judy Garland to Elvis Presley to Marilyn Monroe. He compared Tyson with Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali.
King even mentioned Pee-wee Herman.
"You take the bitter with the good," King said. "This will separate the men from the boys. This will make Mike bigger than ever. When he smokes in and annihilates Holyfield and then comes back to the great state of Indiana, to Marion County, and is totally proven innocent and exonerated, he will be bigger than ever."
During his news conference two blocks from the Canterbury Hotel, site of the alleged rape, Tyson may have provided a preview of his defense. He said he is a man unafraid to mix with the masses and constantly hounded by females.
"Someone's always saying I pinched them or I jumped on top of their head or something," he said. "It's ridiculous, man. [The woman] knows what happened in the room. I know what happened."
King added: "I've seen women chasing after Mike Tyson. These kinds of situations happen."
King and Tyson also named the alleged victim. King defended the action, saying: "Let her go out and face the band of you and ask her, 'What were you doing in the man's bedroom at 2 a.m.?' "
The woman's East Coast attorney, Edward J. Gerstein, told Newsday: "I find it appalling but not unexpected that they sought a gag order to silence the victim, and then the promoter and fighter to out to create a circus atmosphere."
Despite his legal problems, Tyson vowed to regain his heavyweight championship. He said the court appearance interrupted his training, but would not prevent him from completing his mission.
"I'm looking forward to fighting," he said. "I'm confident that I'll be in great shape. I'll be the champion."
Meanwhile, operators of an exclusive jewelry shop in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas filed a federal court civil suit against Tyson yesterday, claiming the former heavyweight champion still owes them $125,000 for a jeweled panther bracelet.