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Tyson will appeal conviction

Less than 12 hours after a jury convicted him of raping an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant, boxer Mike Tyson was back at the Marion County courthouse Tuesday morning to meet with his newly assigned probation officer.

The 25-year-old former heavyweight champion silently trotted up the courthouse stairs behind his attorneys as a throng of fans yelled, "Hang in there, Mike."

As expected, Tyson's lead attorney, Vincent Fuller, issued a statement Tuesday saying Tyson will appeal.

"We are greatly disappointed in the verdict returned last night," the statement said. "We remain convinced of Mr. Tyson's innocence. . . . The trial is but the first step in the process of arriving at the truth. When that process has become completed, a new trial had, and all the evidence heard, we have faith that Mr. Tyson's vindication will be complete."

Legal observers said the most likely grounds for appeal will be Judge Patricia Gifford's ruling midway through the trial prohibiting three new witnesses from testifying on Tyson's behalf. However, lead prosecutor J. Gregory Garrison and other lawyers who read the judge's ruling said they thought she had worded the ruling in such a way that an appeals court would have difficulty reversing the case.

Tyson was interviewed by his probation officer for 80 minutes about his personal history, financial resources and juvenile criminal history _ information that will be included in a report sent to Gifford for consideration when she sentences him March 6.

"Mr. Tyson was reserved, quiet, and soft-spoken," said chief probation officer Steve Wills, who conducted the interview. "He was respectful and cooperative. He was attentive and focused."

A jury of eight men and four women deliberated for nine hours Monday before convicting Tyson of rape and two counts of criminal deviate conduct stemming from a sexual assault on a Miss Black America pageant contestant in his hotel room last July.

Although the jurors would not identify themselves by name, their comments offered glimpses as to why the prosecution prevailed.

According to several jurors, Tyson, who testified for nearly three hours in his own defense, lacked credibility when he explained that he met the woman at at a pageant rehearsal and bluntly asked her to have sex with him.

According to Tyson's testimony, she responded, "Sure, give me a call."

Tyson had never mentioned his remark in his grand jury appearance nor in his deposition, and prosecutors referred to it in closing arguments as "the lie." The jury foreman said that the contradiction was apparent to jurors and that they "certainly gave it some weight in coming to a final decision."

Also hurting the defense was the lack of a single, powerfully credible witness. Although Tyson was well-prepared and composed on the stand, jurors simply didn't believe his story as much as they believed his accuser's, according to the foreman.

Maximum term unlikely

Tyson could be sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in prison, but it is unlikely that Gifford will impose such a term. Under Indiana sentencing guidelines, Tyson should face a minimum of six years, but the judge is free to suspend all or part of that sentence.

County prosecutor Jeffrey Modisett said a pre-sentence report will probably weigh heavily in the judge's sentence. The report will include input from the rape victim and from Tyson's ex-wife, actress Robin Givens, as well as information about Tyson's mental state.

At the time of sentencing, the judge will decide whether to allow Tyson to remain free pending an appeal or to send him to prison immediately.

The state Department of Corrections will decide which penal institution to send Tyson to once a sentence is handed down.

Kevin Moore, an assistant to Department of Correction commissioner James Aiken, said Tuesday: "We are gearing up to handle Mr. Tyson just like any other felon coming into the system. We have not made any other arrangements to treat him differently or alter our policies."

The correction department will consider the possible reactions of other inmates to Tyson's celebrity status, Moore said, but that won't be a deciding factor in where he is imprisoned.

The victim, meanwhile, smiled broadly Tuesday morning as she left on a flight from Indianapolis to her home in New England.

"I'm very happy with the verdict, the jury, the police and the prosecutors," she told television station WRTV. "I'm very happy with the city of Indianapolis."

Modisett said the woman, a college freshman, has not decided whether to file a civil suit against Tyson and is eager to return to her normal life. However, Modisett said, she is interested in becoming a spokeswoman for victims of rape and is considering identifying herself to the public.

Fighting future dim

With the conviction, observers say Tyson's future as a prizefighter is dim.

Shelly Finkle, who manages undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, said there is no chance Holyfield will accept a Tyson rematch, even if Tyson remains free on appeal.

In a news conference Tuesday in Atlanta, Holyfield wouldn't rule out a future fight with Tyson after the former champion's legal problems are resolved.

"It depends on what he does while he's in jail," he said.

Holyfield was scheduled to fight Tyson last Nov. 8, but Tyson injured his ribs and the fight was postponed. Holyfield's promoter, Dan Duva, said Holyfield had no problems fighting someone under indictment, but he wouldn't fight Tyson now until his prison time is served or the conviction is overturned.

"As a convicted felon, I think it would be absolutely wrong and would send an awful message to the public if we were to allow Mike Tyson to fight for the title now," Duva said.

Holyfield said he was disappointed that a fight with Tyson never took place.

"It was something I felt the public wanted to see," he said. "It's sad the public won't see the two best boxers of the era."

Angelo Dundee, legendary boxing trainer of Muhammad Ali and other champions, said there will be life in the heavyweight division after Tyson.

"We've got the Riddick Bowes, Razor Ruddocks, Lennox Lewis kids out there that can create excitement and come to the fore now," he said.

Turbulent career

Monday night's verdict marked an apparent end to Tyson's turbulent career as a boxer, but his legal problems began in 1978, when at age 12 he was arrested for a purse-snatching in Brooklyn. In 1982 he was expelled from Catskill (N.Y.) High School for a series of offenses.

Trainer Cus D'Amato took Tyson out of reform school and taught him how to box, and in 1986 Tyson knocked out Trevor Berbick to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

He lost the crown in February 1990 in Japan when James "Buster" Douglas knocked him out.

Both as a champion and more recently as a challenger, Tyson had a history of legal troubles outside the ring.

Three days apart in 1988, two women filed lawsuits against him alleging that he fondled their breasts and buttocks, making sexual comments despite their protests.

Boxer Mitch Green told police in 1988 that Tyson hit him during a pre-dawn scuffle outside a Harlem haberdashery. Tyson broke a bone in his right hand during the scuffle. Green later dropped assault charges.

In 1990, Tyson reached an out-of-court settlement with a Los Angeles parking attendant who claimed the boxer punched him when he refused to let Tyson's white Mercedes-Benz park in a particular spot.

Jose Torres, in his book, Fire and Fear, quoted Tyson as saying the "best punch I've ever thrown in my entire life" was one in which he hit Givens, his former wife. Tyson denied making any such statement.

_ Information from the Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters and Times files was used in this report.