Mike Tyson won’t face charges for punching, bloodying man on flight
Boxing legend Mike Tyson will not face charges weeks after he was filmed punching and bloodying a passenger on a JetBlue flight who was apparently badgering him, according to California prosecutors.
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office said the case against Tyson was closed after the boxer and the JetBlue passenger he struck, Melvin Townsend III, requested that misdemeanor battery charges not be brought against Tyson. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he had made the decision not to bring charges after reviewing video and police reports of the April 20 incident at San Francisco International Airport.
“Our decision is that we will not file any charges against Mr. Tyson based on the circumstances surrounding the confrontation,” Wagstaffe said in a Tuesday statement. “These include the conduct of the victim leading up to the incident, the interaction between Mr. Tyson and the victim, as well as the requests of both the victim and Mr. Tyson that no charges be filed in this case. We now deem this case closed.”
Townsend, 36, of Punta Gorda, Fla., did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.
The district attorney’s decision is a rare occasion in which a physical altercation on an airplane does not result in charges. Federal law prohibits airline passengers from assaulting other passengers or crew members. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for any misconduct that “can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Tyson, who was in San Francisco to celebrate 4/20, the annual marijuana holiday, was about to fly back to Fort Lauderdale when Townsend appeared to badger the boxer while sitting behind him in first class. Video from TMZ Sports shows Tyson, 55, appearing to repeatedly punch the man and bloody his face.
“My boy just got beat up by Mike Tyson,” a man is heard saying on one of the videos posted to TMZ.
Townsend, who is identified by his middle name, George, by a witness filming the interaction, sported three or four bloody cuts on the right side of his head moments after the encounter.
Jo Mignano, a representative for Tyson, told The Washington Post last month that the passenger in question threw a water bottle at Tyson.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Tyson had an incident on a flight with an aggressive passenger who began harassing him and threw a water bottle at him while he was in his seat,” she said in a statement.
Tyson saw his boxing career and personal life careen off the rails when he was convicted of rape and served three years in prison in the ’90s. After his release, he was briefly barred from boxing for biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997 in one of the most bizarre fights in boxing history.
In the years since, Tyson has reshaped himself into a humanitarian, family man and unlikely redemption story. Tyson appeared at the 420 Hippie Hill festival in San Francisco to promote his Tyson 2.0 cannabis brand and present Eve Meyer, who headed up the nonprofit San Francisco Suicide Prevention for 30 years, with the festival’s inaugural community and compassion award, according to SFGATE.
“Listen, we’re gonna take this to another level in life,” said Tyson, whom one person described as being in “the best mood.” “I’m the world champion, and now I’m the world champion of cannabis, and we can’t be stopped. Look at us. Thousands of people looking at us, and we’re getting high. This is beautiful. … Look at me, baby, look how beautiful I look up here.”
Hours later, Tyson’s mood on his redeye flight to Fort Lauderdale was ruined by a passenger who appeared to talk his ear off, TMZ reported. After Tyson took a selfie with him, the man, later identified by prosecutors as Townsend, is shown saying something to the former boxer. Tyson appears unimpressed and bothered.
“He over here rapping with Tyson,” said the witness in one of the two videos posted to TMZ. The witness said of his friend, “He don’t know how to act.”
Another video shows Tyson and Townsend in the middle of the altercation, with Tyson swinging at the man’s chest as the passenger tried to stave him off.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey!” one man is heard yelling in the video. “Hey, Mike! Mike, c’mon!”
San Francisco Police Department spokeswoman Kathryn Winters said officers detained and released two people, one of whom “provided minimal details of the incident and refused to cooperate further with the police investigation.”
It’s not the first time Tyson has been involved in a physical altercation in public. In 1989, Tyson was accused of striking a Los Angeles parking attendant with an open hand. Charges were later dropped. In 1998, Tyson was sentenced to 3½ months in jail after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault following a car crash in Maryland, according to ESPN.
Representatives for Tyson praised Wagstaffe’s decision on Tuesday, saying in a statement they appreciated the district attorney’s “careful, diligent and professional work.”