Let Tyson sentence New York attackers

June 28, 2000|By Gregory Kane

SATURDAY NIGHT, Mike Tyson pounded into plumped protoplasm one pitiful Lou Savarese, who some observers say had picked out his spot to fall before the heavyweight boxing mismatch began in Scotland. During the fight, an errant Tyson punch hit the referee, who was trying to prevent Iron Mike from inflicting further damage on his hapless, pugilistically challenged foe. After the fight, Tyson expressed a desire to rip the heart from current heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis.

Can a civilized society make good use of such rage? You betcha.

Just weeks before the fight, a mob of hoodlums rampaged through New York City's Central Park, sexually assaulting at least 50 women. In fact, let's make that a herd instead of a mob. A mob, the late actor Jack Webb noted, at least has a leader.

So it was this herd, with its herd mentality, that attacked the women. What is the appropriate punishment for these miscreants, some of whom have been identified, arrested and charged?

Have them strap on gloves, headgear and boxing trunks to go three rounds with one Mike Tyson.

And let's not have any of that "cruel or unusual punishment" stuff found in the Constitution. This would be punishment neither cruel nor unusual. This would be a better retribution than any of those creeps deserves. For those still squeamish about the idea, we'll even throw a ref in the ring so he can stop the beating should it get too gruesome. We could even make the rounds only one minute long.

There would be a poetic irony to meting out such justice. The Central Park attackers would get a battering from the man who, throughout the 1980s, epitomized the notion among some men that they could grab and grope women as they pleased. If there were ever a poster for sexual misconduct, Tyson's mug shot would be on it.

Tyson is, of course, a convicted rapist. To this day, he denies the rape, claiming the encounter he had with a beauty pageant contestant was consensual. His lawyers put forth a defense in which they contended that while Tyson might be a groper, he would never rape a woman.

Tyson's defenders during that time -- mostly men, but also a few clueless women -- repeated such idiocy. He didn't rape Desiree Washington, they said, she set him up. He was once again being victimized by some greedy, scheming woman, just as he had been in his marriage to actress Robin Givens.

Those were indeed difficult times to be a man, a time when some of us, if we could, would have turned in our Y chromosomes. Those of us who pointed out the astronomical odds against a man's being consecutively victimized by two equally greedy and scheming women got sneers of derision.

Our skepticism about the charge that avaricious femmes fatales stalked Tyson and were after his money was met with equal disdain. We pointed out that former heavyweight champs Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Larry Holmes had tons of cash but managed to steer clear of conniving vixens. We may as well have been speaking in Mandingo.

But we persisted, even Sonny Liston, during his days as a menacing heavyweight contender and his short reign as champ, didn't have these problems. Sonny Liston, for heavens sake! The man who cracked heads for the mob. The man with a criminal record as long as one of his massive arms. The man who once dumped a cop in a trash bin.

But Tyson's supporters denied the obvious: that Iron Mike was responsible for his problems. If he was guilty of anything, they claimed, it was just randomly groping a few honeys here and there. Nothing serious. No big deal.

With such views running rampant among men, is it any surprise that we find in the year 2000 boors such as the ones who terrorized helpless women in Central Park? The grabbing and groping of a woman's body parts is a sexual assault. And it's every bit as serious as a rape, as those now in custody no doubt belatedly realize.

Society may now be able to put one of the worst sexual predators to good use. Tyson, who pleads his innocence to a rape charge but probably knows he's guilty of so much more (Foreman once said he wanted to get Iron Mike in a ring before a good district attorney got to him), can begin to make amends. He can be the instrument of punishment for those who regard sexual assault lightly, who hold women in contempt and who have shown by their conduct they are unfit to walk our cities' streets.

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