Tale of the Tapes
Are federal prosecutors using a leading U.S. clergyman to build a case against boxing promoter Don King? It sure looks that way. Last year, in the weeks preceding former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson's rape conviction, the FBI taped the Reverend T.J. Jemison, head of the eight-million-member National Baptist Convention USA, allegedly offering $1 million to Donald Washington to persuade his daughter, Desiree, to drop charges against Tyson. Tyson, of course, was managed by King.
The recordings are the government's strongest evidence against Jemison, who was indicted for perjury last July in Lafayette, La., after having denied under oath that he offered Donald Washington money. With Jemison's trial set for May 3, government lawyers could use the prospect of a conviction to press Jemison for details about the source of the alleged $1 million offer, in the hope that the money trail leads to his pal King. If it does, King, already the target of a federal grand-jury probe in New York City, could then face a federal obstruction of justice charge.
The feds began pursuing Jemison in November 1991 after Donald Washington informed the FBI that Jemison and other Baptist ministers had repeatedly called him in an effort to get him to persuade his daughter to drop her charges against Tyson. With Washington's consent, the FBI recorded six calls between him and Jemison in the weeks leading up to Tyson's January 1992 trial. In addition, on Dec. 13, while wearing a hidden microphone, he met with Jemison and other ministers in a Newport, R.I., hotel room. Sources who have read the FBI's report of that meeting told SI's Lester Munson that Jemison offered Washington $250,000, $500,000 and, finally, $1 million if Desiree would drop the rape charges. And according to transcripts included in Jemison's indictment, during a Dec. 30, 1991, phone conversation, Jemison told Washington, "If I could be Desiree for a minute, I, I'd be most happy to accept an offer of, say, between five hundred, nine hundred thousand and get it over with."
Armed with the tapes, prosecutors confronted Jemison when he appeared in a Lafayette federal courtroom last June as a character witness in an unrelated criminal case. After cross examining Jemison about the defendant in the trial, the government's lawyer—in a highly unusual move—quizzed him about his conversations with Donald Washington. As he did on the stand, Jemison admits to having talked with Washington about keeping the Tyson case out of court, but he maintains that he wasn't acting on behalf of Tyson or King. And despite the tapes, he still says he didn't mention money.
Whether the tapes lead to the conviction of Jemison or anyone else, they have exposed the clandestine efforts of Jemison and other Tyson sympathizers to block Tyson's trial. With an appeal decision imminent, the tapes have also dealt a blow to Tyson's lawyers, who based their defense and appeal, in part, on the theory that Desiree Washington lied about the rape in the hope of extorting money from Tyson. That contention seems groundless in light of the fact that the Washingtons, despite an alleged offer of $1 million to drop the charges, chose to take the case to court.
In one afternoon John Ed Anthony, the owner of Loblolly Stable, saw four of his Kentucky Derby aspirants fail—two in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and two in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Loblolly colts Marked Tree and Ozan went off as cofavorites in last Saturday's Wood. Marked Tree, who had won the Remington Park Derby on April 3, could muster no more than a halfhearted run in the homestretch and finished third, half a length behind the winner, Storm Tower. Ozan struggled home in sixth place.
Thirty minutes later, under a steady Arkansas rain, Anthony watched as favored Dalhart, the horse many observers considered Loblolly's strongest, stopped running in the stretch and wound up ninth, nine lengths behind winner Rockamundo, a 108-1 long shot. Dalhart's touted stablemate Over Jack Mountain wound up seventh.
Until last Saturday, Anthony figured to have at least three horses running in the Kentucky Derby—an entry that was being billed as the most formidable from one stable since Calumet Farm's duo of Citation and Coaltown in 1948. Now it seems all his hopes must ride on Prairie Bayou, whose victory in the Blue Grass Stakes two weeks ago (SI, April 19) might yet make him the favorite at Churchill Downs.
Pro sports teams often give tickets to students who earn straight A's. Last Saturday the Denver Nuggets worked a more meaningful trade: They swapped tickets for guns. In the promotion, dubbed Operation Cease Fire, anyone turning in a gun at one of four area churches received a pair of tickets to this Sunday's Nugget-Phoenix Sun game. While not everyone applauded the program—National Rifle Association rep George Nyfeler told the Rocky Mountain News, "[It's a] feel-good, do-nothing activity. People who would give up a gun for groceries, money or tickets to basketball games...[are] not going to use that gun in a crime anyway"—the Nuggets insisted it was not just a publicity gimmick. "Twelve kids die every day from gunshot wounds in this country," said Nugget president Tim Leiweke. "If we get one gun, it's been successful."
The Nuggets got 47 firearms, most of them handguns, including a fully loaded .38 caliber revolver. "These aren't sporting weapons," said Steve Jeffries, Denver's deputy police chief, of the guns turned in. "These are people killers."
The New York Rangers' ignominious season, which saw the club tumble from first to worst in the Patrick Division, had barely ended last week when New York G.M. Neil Smith announced that he had hired Iron Mike Keenan, the best coach on the market. By missing the playoffs the Rangers forfeit at least $1 million per home game in postseason gate receipts. But rather than cut his losses, Smith signed Keenan to a reported four-year, $2.8 million deal, which makes him the highest-paid coach in the NHL. Smith knew that the Rangers' parent company, Paramount Communications, didn't want to risk the season-ticket defections and lost revenue that likely would have come with a rebuilding program. So he persuaded Paramount CEO Stanley Jaffe to place the same faith in Keenan that Jaffe had placed in Pat Riley, who whipped the underachieving New York Knicks, also owned by Paramount, into shape after being hired in May 1991.
Keenan, 43 and an NHL coach for eight seasons, relishes the comparison with Riley. Yet despite three trips to the Stanley Cup finals—twice with the Philadelphia Flyers and once, last season, with the Chicago Blackhawks—Keenan has yet to take a team all the way. Unless he does just that with the Rangers, he won't be considered a success in New York.
Keenan did double duty as G.M. in Chicago but will just coach in New York. That leaves the rest of the headaches to Smith, who looks as though he just got off a six-month subway ride. Maybe that's why he made the ill-advised decision last week to send three of the Rangers' foreign-born players-Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov of Russia, both of whom were mainstays of the team, and Peter Andersson of Sweden—to the Binghamton Rangers for the American Hockey League playoffs rather than allow them to take part in the world championships, which begin this week in Munich. Whatever success these three bring Binghamton in the postseason will hardly make up for New York's disastrous regular season.
Last week Tom Houston, one of 24 candidates for mayor of Los Angeles, announced plans to take a boatload of reporters a mile out into Santa Monica Bay, give them scuba gear and, after he and the journalists had dived to a depth of 60 feet, present his antipollution program. Alas, the press conference was a titanic disaster. The only reporter who showed up got seasick—"further polluting the ocean," in the words of the Los Angeles Times—several members of Houston's diving party became lost in the murky ocean, and the candidate himself got only 10 feet under before he started having trouble breathing and had to be hauled back to the boat.
Washington (inset) says Jemison (left) tried to get him to drop Tyson charges.
HARRY SISKIND/OMEGA PHOTOGRAPHY
[See caption above.]
Celtics Said It
•Kevin McHale (left), 35-year-old Boston forward, on his diminishing role with the Celtics despite his $3.5 million salary: "I go to the mailbox blindfolded, masked, incognito, on my knees. People say, 'Who's that four-foot-three guy picking up a check?' "
•Sherman Douglas, Boston guard, before a soft stretch in the schedule: "I don't want to shoot my mouth in the foot, but those are games we can win."
When Steve Morrow scored the winning goal on Sunday at London's Wembley Stadium to give Arsenal a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday—and with it the English League Cup—his teammates were so thrilled that they gathered around him on the field and tossed him aloft in celebration. Unfortunately they failed to catch him. Thus, as his mates were accepting the trophy, and the homage of the crowd, Morrow, with a broken arm, was being carried off on a stretcher.
They Wrote It
•Ian Woolridge, of London's Daily Mail, on U.S. golf announcers after seeing CBS's Masters coverage: "Bereft of an original turn of phrase, dispensing clichès like election mailshots, declaiming non sequiturs of prodigious lunacy in the tones of Charlton Heston, polishing one another's egos and generally investing golf with an importance above all other goings-on in this violent world, they seem devoid of all original thought and are particularly frantic when it becomes apparent that, for the fifth time in six years, a non-American is about to win the Masters."
They Said It
•Bernard McGuirk, of WFAN radio in New York, on the recent divorce of Fred Couples (right): "He's now known as Fred Singles."