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Jury finds Tyson guilty of fondling; woman wins $100

A jury decided Wednesday that former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson fondled a woman at a Manhattan dance club in 1988 and awarded her $100 in compensatory damages. The five-woman, one-man jury will return to Manhattan's federal court today to hear testimony on Tyson's financial status before ruling on punitive damages.

The woman, Sandra Miller, asked for up to $2.5-million in punitive damages in her civil lawsuit.

The jury deliberated about 4{ hours before finding that Tyson, the former heavyweight champion, grabbed Miller's breasts and buttocks after she refused his advances at Bentley's Disco on Dec. 10, 1988.

Tyson, who testified during the three-day trial that he was at Bentley's that night but didn't touch Miller or even know her, showed no outward emotion as U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey read the verdict. It found the fighter had committed battery but not assault.

In his instructions on the law, the judge had explained that assault required no finding of contact but must include a threat. A finding of battery requires actual contact, he said.

Tyson said he was not disappointed with the verdict. "If they thought it was serious, they would have given her more than 100 bucks," he said.

When asked how she felt, Miller, a 26-year-old computer operator from Queens, said, "Great that they know that he did it."

Before deciding punitive damages, the jury will get a copy of Tyson's financial statement. Miller's attorneys said they also plan to call another woman who has sued Tyson over a similar incident that allegedly happened the same night at Bentley's.

The second woman's testimony will be presented to show that Tyson engaged in a pattern of abusive activity. Tyson is expected to testify again today to dispute those claims.

In closing arguments earlier Wednesday, Tyson's attorney, Robert Hirth, told the jury that Miller had concocted the allegations to obtain money from Tyson.

"You should send a message that if Sandra Miller wants to engage in a get-rich-quick scheme she should buy a lottery ticket," Hirth said.

He belittled Miller's credibility by pointing to discrepancies in her trial testimony and a sworn statement she gave earlier.

"Her story has gotten better the closer she got to the courtroom and appeared before you," Hirth said.

But Miller's lawyer, Alan Clark, said the discrepancies were minor and a result of the passage of time. He said the real issue was whether the incident occurred.

He urged jurors to believe her version of events because she had the "courage and guts" to take on the former world heavyweight champion.

"Any touching that is unwanted is offensive and should not be permitted," said Clark. "How would you feel if that stranger happened to be a boxer whose hands are lethal weapons, who happens to be heavyweight champion of the world?" he asked. "Would you be scared?"

Miller originally sued Tyson for $4.5-million, alleging assault, battery and infliction of severe emotional distress. Judge Mukasey knocked out the emotional distress claim on technical charges, limiting the amount Miller could recover to $3.5-million.

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